Bringing up silkworms
At our last meeting we followed our usual practice of reading aloud an article in French, followed by a translation of it and discussion of the topic (usually in franglais).
This time it was a very interesting article on Sericiculture (silkworm cultivation) in the area around Lyons. Apparently the key to successfully rearing silkworms is to pamper them ….
We were fascinated to discover that the ideal temperature for hatching out silkworm eggs is body heat, and the country women used to suspend a batch of silkworm eggs in a bag under their bodices for around 14 days in order to achieve this.
The silkworm caterpillars once hatched were transferred to the attics of houses as these were both well ventilated and warm, and apparently you could actually hear the sound of the silkworms munching voraciously on the huge quantities of mulberry leaves which they needed. The caterpillars, when ready to start spinning their cocoons were 80 times the size of the original hatchlings.
Each cocoon can contain up to one and a half kilometres of silk thread which is as strong as steel wire. Only the best cocoons were allowed to pupate and produce butterflies for future breeding,otherwise allowing the butterflies to break through the cocoons would spoil the silk – the price of beauty!.
The French silkworm industry came to an end with the opening of the Suez Canal allowing imports from the East. We understand there is still a very high quality silk industry around Lyons so we took advantage of our Skype link with Marie-Elisabeth to ask her to check out where they currently obtain their silkworms.
We also were entertained by brief stories in a French magazine about the funny conversations overheard by bar staff, and Marie-Elisabeth introduced us to a new translation website which occupied us for the last few minutes of the meeting.
If you too would like to join our merry little band, we would love to hear from you. Just give me a call on 01437 766775 A.C.T.