There is an underground currency running through school yards and kindergartens.
A currency that’s been in effect for hundreds of years.
Transactions made in gym cloakrooms and under shadowy trees.
Nondescript cardboard boxes change hands.
You can’t go to a pet shop and buy them. Generations pass hands and new initiates are introduced in a true barter system learnt in sandpits and empty classrooms.
Every child has a box at some point or another. Not very exciting pets, but low maintenance.
What is it about these soft white and stripy invertebrates that entrance children so?
I’ve never managed to get silk out of the cocoons and for the past few years I have tried different ways of hatching a new generation, but they seem to hatch as moths, lay eggs, die and then nothing happens. My husband tried to put the eggs in the fridge for some reason last time, but that didn’t work either.
It doesn’t really matter as Small boy aged 8 will return home from school with a cardboard box this afternoon housing ten new silkworms in dire need of Mulberry leaves. Thing is, we don’t have a Mulberry tree so, I have to get in the car with a pair of secateurs and leap out at strategic junctures and prune leaves off my neighbours’ trees. Like a midnight leaf thief.
I’ve hit Google and discovered that while you can just shove the leaves in the box, you can also buy silkworm food for Mulberry deprived families like mine. Somehow, I doubt South African pet stores stock this, so I’ll have to on raiding other people’s trees.
They can go for a week without food, but should be fed once a day. They grow as large as their food supply will allow. Damp is the mortal enemy of silkworms and they must be kept dry. As they get bigger they must be handled very gently as they bruise easily.
That’s all you need to know about raising silkworms.
That and the smell no-one tells you about.
And that your housekeeper refuses to clean any room they are resident in.