Volume 65: Macarthur-Onslow correspondence, 1846-1929: No. 439
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The Silk Industry.
the strange phenomenon peculiar to New South Wales, of living silkworms in every daily or periodical stage of progression up to cocooning (every day's lot must be kept severely separate) - that is, worms of every stage and daily growth, and through every moult and change of forms (metamorphosis) contemporaneously, and at the same time the emerging and coupling of the moths and deposit of the eggs (the graine again). This continues till winter, during which refit and preparations are made for the following season.
"The whole of the natural history of the mulberry silkworm, absolutely unchanged in its natural annual habit, is in view at one and the same moment - worms hatched on the day itself, and of every other day, from day one old to full grown ones, actually making their cocoons; the moths emerging, and new eggs being produced, which are a generation to proceed with in an subsequent season.
Arranged beforehand, and in the hands of a skilled person, the process is as much under control as the machinery in a factory. It is animated, self-reproducing machinery, maintained by supplies of the silk-worms' only natural food - the mulberry leaf."
Many persons viewing the Silkworm Exhibits at the Agricultural Show in Moore Park, appeared to be impressed with the changed aspect of this valuable industry presented to their minds on that occasion - hitherto neglected here, while largely adding to the wealth and comfort of great bodies of people - producers of raw material for silk in Europe and in Asia. Casting off the silly fancies and childish toying which have so long pervaded the Australian mind in regard to the silkworm insect, some few at least of the visitors who thronged around the tables early and late, demanding attention and explanations, made it evident that they were desirous of useful information, and to learn more than could be learned in the short time the exhibition would be open. In short, to be instructed about an occupation which offers the inducement of profit to almost any one employing him or herself therein.
The annual aggregate value of the cocoons (sold in the state just as made by the silkworm caterpillar without any winding or reeling or any other preparation) raised in Italy and France is from about five millions to six and a half millions of pounds sterling (£5.000,000 to £6,500,000) for each of those countries. This affords an average return to each individual rearer of about £9 or £10 in France, £10 or £11 in Italy, while in regions bordering the Eastern Mediterranean Sea the average reward to each rearer appears to be from £10 to £12. In every case the whole time occupied is the same, namely, about six or seven weeks per annum.
If the cocoons are not sold immediately, or are intended to be kept, they must be dried so as to destroy the life of the grub or chrysalis inside, or (preferably) dessicated, that is, so dried that not only is the life within put an end to and the boring out of the cocoon by the moth avoided, but the insect itself reduced to dust so dry that when crushed by pressure the cocoon shall not be soiled nor injured. When thus treated they can be kept for an indefinite period, and, packed in bales, travel to any part of the world.
Inexact and sometimes extravagant statements having appeared in unauthorised publications we now mention for general information and to prevent unreasonable expectations, that the open market value of cocoons all round is about from 9 1/2d. to 12d. or 13d. per pound weight, according to quality, in the condition just as completed by the worm. If dried (and of course in proportion to the degree to which drying or dessication is carried) the market value will be greater and double or several times more than in the "green" state. In short, as the cocoon becomes lighter by reduction of the weight of the moisture, &c,, belonging to the grub, the proportion of the valuable matter, the silk, is greater. It is, however, very generally found most convenient as well as most profitable for the rearer to sell immediately, that is, as soon as the cocoons are fit to be taken from the "bush" - leaving