National Geographic : 1953 May
Raw Silk Comes + from Fluffy Shells In silk making, Nature's process ends and man's be gins with the cocoon. To fill this bin, moths first laid eggs. Tiny caterpillars hatched, devoured leaves, times, and after five weeks of life wound themselves within continuous filaments of natural silk (page 704). Each season the farm al lows a few thousand moths to emerge from cocoons, select mates, lay eggs, and start the new cycle that will maintain Lullingstone's working force at some 4,000,000 silkworms. Most cocoons, however, are baked an hour in a temperature adjusted to kill the chrysalides, or pupae, without injuring the silk. They are then stored in a cool room until workers begin unwinding the mile and a half of silk in each one (page 699). Combine European + 40 Cocoons Make a Double Handful Sorted and graded, these cocoons are ready for the stifling oven. They go to that death chamber be cause the moths, if allowed to emerge naturally, would indelibly stain their silken prisons with a dissolving fluid used in breaking out. Thumb-wide and more than twice as long, the cocoons suggest peanut shells. Though Lullingstone buys cocoons from thou sands of children, it raises far more of its own. Its raw silk, however, totals less than one-tenth of one percent of that processed by Britain's 400 silk firms. All the rest has to be im ported.