Silkworm at work


After completing this section students should be able to:

Terms: Insect secretions, silk, beeswax, hypodermal glands, royal jelly, mandibular glands, hypodermal glands, cochineal, cantharidin, galls, tannic acid.

Insects as Food and Fiber Producers.

    1. Insect secretions.

        a. Silk - from salivary glands of Bombyx mori - silk worm.

        b. Beeswax - natural secretion.

            Honey bee Apis mellifera, adult hypodermal glands.

        c. Royal jelly. Secretion of mandibular glands of "nurse" bees.

        d. Shellac. "Wax" from scale insect hypodermal glands.

    2. Insect bodies.

        a. Cochineal - red dye from pulverized bodies of mealy bug.

            Dactylopius coccus. "Pest" of prickly pear cactus.

        b. Cantharidin: From dried bodies of blister beetles (Meloidae) causes blisters
            on skin of vertebrates.

        c. Insect bodies as lures, fish bait.

        d. Insect bodies used in medicine.

    3. Insects collect, modify products.

        a. Honey bees collect nectar.

    4. Insects create new products. Cause "insect" galls on plants.
        Some are valuable to humans.

        a. Tannic acid - oak galls.

        b. Galls - source of finest dyes and most permanent inks.


  1. Where did the production of silk originate?

  2. What is the only food plant of the silkworm moth?

  3. How is beeswax used by honey bees? How is it used by humans?

  4. How does royal jelly affect the development of honey bee larvae? How is it used by humans? How do beekeepers get honey bees to make royal jelly in large quantities?

  5. What is the origin of shellac? What is stick lac? Why is its production limited to undeveloped countries?

  6. What is the source of cochineal dye? How did it influence the treatment of native Americans by the Spanish?

  7. What is "maggot therapy"? How was it discovered that maggots could be used in medicine?

  8. What is the source of cantharidin? How is it used by the insect? By humans?

  9. Describe the process by which honey bees convert nectar to honey.

  10. What is a gall? How is it formed?

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