Silkworms Fed Dyed Mulberry Leaves to Produce Coloured Silk

By Jordan Kushins on at

Fact: Snails fed coloured paper will poop coloured squiggles. Now, silkworms are getting in on the technicolour action: a recent report shows that, after eating mulberry leaves treated with fabric dye, regular larvae will produce cotton candy tinted fibres. They're like biological 3D printers for producing coloured silk.

The findings, published in the ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering journal, point to an effort to find a more sustainable solution to traditional dyeing methods.

Silkworms Fed Dyed Mulberry Leaves To Produce Colored Silk

Dissected silkworm glands.

Generally, these require lots and lots of water that, in the end, becomes a chemically contaminated toxic hazard, but applying the pigment before consumption requires way less H2O. Out of seven azo dyes tried, "Direct Acid fast red" gave the most brilliant result, strong enough to give the wiggly little things themselves a rosy blush.

It's pretty crazy to think of silkworm farms turned into terrestrial rainbows, with both coloured leaves (before) and coloured cocoons (after). Perhaps, with enough training, these little living looms can simply weave coloured scarves and clothing for you. [Popular Science]