Silk and silkworms

For more than 5,000 years silkworms have been bred in China for the production of raw silk. The larvae of silkworms feed on the mulberry tree leaves. When they reach their pupal phase, they enclose themselves in a pod made of a thread of raw silk. Its length can vary from 1,000 to 3,000 feet. 

In Curaçao, silkworm-breeding to produce silk has never been successful. In 1837 mulberry trees were imported from Guadeloupe and Martinique, in 1838 another type of mulberry arrived from Utrecht, the Netherlands. 

In that same year,1838, first lieutenant Frucht sailed to Guadeloupe by government order. He was asked to find out details about the mulberry and silkworm culture. On Guadeloupe, the Japanese mulberry was cultivated for its leaves because the silkworms preferred this type of mulberry. The fields weren’t irrigated, although it would sometimes not rain for four months. Silkworms were cultivated and fed with mulberry leaves in a shed.

Frucht took some silkworm eggs and pods with him to Curaçao, but it is unclear what was done with them. Although the imported mulberry trees did well on the island, in 1843 it was reported that the silkworm culture was a complete failure.

Nevertheless, in 1898 Samuel Cohen Henriquez of the Van Engelen plantation imported silkworms from Italy. Unfortunately, they were all dead upon arrival.