“If you’ve eaten garlic, don’t breathe on your silkworms,” says one girl who kept the critters as a child. Raising silkworms has always been a fun pastime for kids in China, and—as you might expect—is something of an art. (Even garlicky breath can make them deathly ill!) Recently, we came across these guidelines for good silkworm parenting: Keep no more than 20 in a shirt box. Their kernel-like droppings must be cleaned daily.
The worms should be fed mulberry leaves. But be cautious: even just a little dirt or moisture in the leaves will give these bugs diarrhea and might even send them to a wormy heaven.
If they are still babies (the size of ants), don’t use your fingers to move them or they’ll get smushed. You may use the tip of a paintbrush.
Naming silkworms is difficult because there are too many to remember. The best advice is to call them all “Little Baby” (蚕宝宝 cán bǎobǎo).
If you do manage to keep your silkworms alive, they will make beautiful cocoons and one day you’ll wake to find 20 of them magically hovering over your bed. So what is the joy in raising them? When we asked the girl she said, “They feel nice and cool if you let them crawl on your arm.” Beats cuddling the cat I guess. – N.R