The silkworm is the larva of the domesticated silk moth, Bombay Moi. It powers a multi billion dollar industry as the world’s primary producer of ‘pure silk’. The Chinese started domesticating the wild silk moth 5000 years ago. As a result of millennia of selective breeding, the domesticated moth, in contrast to the wild one, has changed colour from dark brown to albino white, lacks any fear of potential predators, cannot fly, needs human assistance in finding a mate, and has increased cocoon size and growth rate. These changes have made domestic silk moths entirely dependent upon humans for survival.
Current research focuses on the genetic engineering of silkworms; they are cheap, easy to reproduce on schedule, and can be used for medical purposes, by changing the form of the silk protein. For example, the antennas of male silk moths are being adapted as biosensors, for drug or bomb detection, and possibly for antiterrorism measures in the near future.
This project aims to make us think about our relationship with other living beings: when we buy a silk blouse, we have no idea about the 630 worms, which were bred in insect factories and killed for their yarn. As humans we consider animals as either harmful or beneficial; is there another way to relate to them?