What is the Difference Between Silkworm and Silk Moth

Silkworms and silk moths, though seemingly different, are both essential in the world of silk production. Understanding the difference between silkworm and silk moth is crucial for anyone involved in the silk industry, as it can impact the quality and yield of silk.

What is the difference between silkworm and silk moth? The larvae of silkworms are of particular economic value, primarily producing silk, whereas silk moths are the adult stage of silkworms. 

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Silkworm
     – Definition, Facts, Features
2. What is Silk Moth
     – Definition, Facts, Features
3. Similarities Between Silkworm and Silk Moth
     – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Silkworm and Silk Moth
     – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ – Silkworm and Silk Moth
     – Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms 

Silk Moth, Silkworm

Difference Between Silkworm and Silk Moth - Comparison Summary

What is Silkworm

Silkworm is a lepidopteran, and its caterpillar is used in silk production. The process is called sericulture, which is native to China for thousands of years. Later, the silkworm became popular throughout the world and underwent complete domestication. Therefore, the wild type of silkworm is no longer found.


Figure 1: Cocoon

The life cycle of a silkworm contains several stages: egg, larvae, pupa, cocoon, and adult. The female silk moth lays eggs from which larvae are hatched. Larvae feed on mulberry leaves and give rise to pupa. Importantly, pupa nets a weave around the silkworm to hold it. This covering is called a cocoon. In fact, the silkworm’s cocoon serves as the source of silk thread or yarn. Later, the pupa stage changes into an adult moth. Also, the scientific name of the silkworm is Bombyx mori.

Morphology-wise, silkworms have thick, bristly bodies. The adult female is larger than the adult male. The color of the body is blond and light brown. It has thin dark bands running across the body. Moreover, the wingspan of silkworms is 40 to 50 mm. The wings are cream-colored and have dark veins extending to the margins.  

What is Silk Moth

Silk moth or domestic silk moth (Bombyx mori) is the adult form of the silkworm. It is an insect from the moth family Bombycidae. The closest relative of the domestic silk moth is the wild silk moth Bombyx mandarina.

Silk Moth

Figure 2: Adult Moth

Furthermore, the domestic silk moth reproduction depends entirely on humans due to millennia of selective breeding. Wild silk moths are not commercially viable in the production of silk.   

Similarities Between Silkworm and Silk Moth

  • Silkworms and silk moths are two stages of the silkworm’s life cycle.
  • They are essential for obtaining silk.

Difference Between Silkworm and Silk Moth


  • Silkworm refers to the commercially bred caterpillar of the domesticated silk moth (Bombyx mori), which spins a silk cocoon that is processed to yield silk fiber, while silk moth refers to a giant moth with a caterpillar that spins a protective silken cocoon.


  • Silkworm has five stages in their life cycle, while silk moth is the adult stage of the life cycle of silkworms.


  • The newly hatched larva of silkworm is about 4 to 6 mm in length; it has a rough, wrinkled, hairless and yellowish white or greyish worm-like body; the full-grown larva is about 6.00 to 8.00 cm in height, while silk moth has a wingspan of 3–5 cm (1.2–2.0 in) and a white, hairy body; females are about two to three times bulkier than males (due to carrying many eggs).


  • Silkworms are responsible for spinning silk, while silk moths are reared to obtain silk, and female silk moths lay eggs.


In brief, silkworms and silk moths are two life cycle stages of silk-producing insects. Silkworm has five stages in its life cycle. They are egg, larvae, pupa, cocoon, and adult. Larvae feed on mulberry leaves and turn into pupa. The pupa forms a covering called a cocoon. Also, it develops into an adult moth. Therefore, the main difference between silkworms and silk moths is their morphology and function.   

FAQ: Silkworm and Silk Moth

1. Do silkworms turn into moths?

Silkworm takes up to three days to complete the cocoon. Inside the cocoon, the pupa forms an adult moth. Silk moth does not eat.

2. What is the difference between a silkworm and a caterpillar?

Silkworms are both larvae and caterpillars. The female silkworm lays eggs, which hatch into larvae. Larvae of female silk moths are known as caterpillars and silkworms. 

3. What are silk moths also called?

The silkworm moth is a lepidopteran, and its caterpillar is used in silk production. It is native to China and has undergone complete domestication, with the species no longer being found in the wild. 

4. Are silkworm moths male or female?

The identification of the gender of the silkworm moth is easy. The female silk moth has a more prominent abdomen than the male counterpart because it has to store around 500 eggs. It lays eggs shortly after mating.

5. Can silkworm moths make silk?

Silkworm moths do not produce silk. Only the pupa of the silkworm can produce a cocoon. Therefore, silkworms are the primary producers of silk.

  1. Bombyx mori.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation.
Image Courtesy:
  1. Cocoon” By Krish Dulal – Own Work (CC-BY SA 3.0) via Anatomy tool
  2. CSIRO ScienceImage 10746 An adult silkworm moth” By CSIRO – Own Work (CC-BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things. She has a keen interest in writing articles regarding science.

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