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Convert wool to silk with clothes moths

Entomological recycling
  (+7)
(+7)
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There is currently a plague of clothes moths in Britain. I have no idea why, maybe they ate all the bees or something.

Clothes moth caterpillars eat wool and spin silk.The former makes them pests, the latter makes them useful. Why not take old wool which can no longer be used to make garments and feed it to clothes moth caterpillars? They apparently spin silken galleries from which they eat the wool, then spin cocoons. It seems to me that this could fairly easily be harvested, thereby effectively recycling old wool into new silk. For a cruelty-free approach, wait until the cocoons have hatched out, as with silkworms this reduces the quality by shortening the fibres, but not to the extent that they become unusable.

nineteenthly, Jun 29 2011

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       Based on wikipedia, it looks like most "wild" silk is of considerably lower quality and possibly poorer properties than silk worm silk.
MechE, Jun 29 2011
  

       [+] can we teach them to eat polyester?
FlyingToaster, Jun 29 2011
  

       It's probably poorer in quality but it won't be as difficult to use as spider silk, on the whole.   

       [FT], i have had that very thought and i think the answer is tiny robots.
nineteenthly, Jun 29 2011
  

       If only we could spray hormones into the air or something, that would train them to repair the holes with their own silk!
pocmloc, Jun 29 2011
  

       Hmm, maybe there's a way of training spiders to hunt the caterpillars and then spin dense webs over the holes. The trouble is, hunting spiders and web-spinning spiders probably produce very different silk.
nineteenthly, Jun 29 2011
  

       OCD spiders that live in your drawers and patch up your clothing.
FlyingToaster, Jun 29 2011
  

       [+] although there's doubtless some dull practical reason why this can't work.   

       [pocmloc] you mean pheromones? And unless you get rid of that extraneous comma, the answer is going to be: "but we already do."
mouseposture, Jun 29 2011
  

       Yes, i also think pheromones.   

       Clothes moth caterpillars presumable secrete enzymes which digest keratin, or maybe they have symbiotic microbes or something. In any case, this presumably means hair, wool and horn can be broken down into amino acids or at least smaller peptides, which means it might be possible to convert it to edible form.
nineteenthly, Jun 30 2011
  

       The pheremone traps for clothes moths are very good. They have a surface which is irresistible to (I think) male clothes moths and which is also very sticky. They're expensive though, so I would prefer to have a pitcher plant genetically engineered to secrete clothes moth pheremones.
hippo, Jun 30 2011
  

       Apply the same principle to hair weaves.
ldischler, Jun 30 2011
  

       Yes. Also, convert lumps of hair in hairbrushes et caetera to silk.
nineteenthly, Jun 30 2011
  

       + I need some of these for my attic where I have stored vintage clothing improperly! If I had only known what an appetite they have! Holy moley!
xandram, Jun 30 2011
  

       There's a fly which eats them and flea larvae.
nineteenthly, Jun 30 2011
  

       I would prefer to see this happening *while* someone is wearing the wool item in question. I imagine someone wearing a wool sweater that is covered with thousands of caterpillars --- they leave the house in the morning wearing their wool outfit, and come home at night in silk. Bun for the bizarre thought... [+]
Grogster, Jun 30 2011
  

       [Xandram], could you use a vacuum packing system to deal with that? Or fill your attic with nitrogen?
nineteenthly, Jul 01 2011
  
      
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