Can you help us rear our caterpillars?
Currently, we have 30 pupae in the lab, and before we try and break the diapause and mate them, we’re figuring out which artificial diets to try out first.
Here’s a picture of what the caterpillars look like when they first emerge – as you can see, they are tiny and very hungry!
These photos are of our preliminary experiments last year, when we raised caterpillars in the field. We fed them on their natural food source, shea leaves. Here's a photo of them enjoying their first taste of fresh shea leaf:
After a lot of sifting through old research papers and books, we have found some great reference material to help us with the task of developing an artificial starter feed. One is Brian Gardiner’s fantastic book on silkworm rearing, and another is this article from 2009 describing diets used successfully to rear two other Saturniidae species in Zambia. We plan to try these, and if they are successful, to reformulate them based on biowaste products that are locally available in Burkina Faso for our second round of breeding. We’re also going to try several fresh leaf species.
However, we’re aware that as with much of entomology, a lot of the expertise in silkworm rearing is probably unpublished and the work of so-called ‘amateurs’ (e.g., people who aren’t employed as entomologists but are nevertheless recognised experts on a particular species, genus or even order).
So this is a plea for help – do you know of any silkmoth experts? Do you have any friends who like to raise wild silkworms as a hobby?
If so, we’d be so grateful if you could put us in touch. As far as we know, we’re treading on very new territory with this caterpillar species, and any new information we can find is a great help.
And if you haven’t already, please do consider contributing to our crowdfunding campaign, by backing us financially and/or sharing it with your network.
Thank you as always - especially to those of you who've already pledged your support!