Silk is a natural protein fibre, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The protein fibre of silk is composed mainly of fibroin and produced by certain insect larvae to form cocoons. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of themulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity (sericulture). The shimmering appearance of silk is due to the triangular prism-like structure of the silk fibre, which allows silk cloth to refract incoming light at different angles, thus producing different colors.
Silks are produced by several other insects, but generally only the silk of moth caterpillars has been used for textile manufacturing. There has been some research into other silks, which differ at the molecular level. Many silks are mainly produced by the larvae of insects undergoing complete metamorphosis, but some adult insects such as webspinners produce silk, and some insects such as raspy crickets produce silk throughout their lives. Silk production also occurs in Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, and ants), silverfish, mayflies, thrips,leafhoppers, beetles, lacewings, fleas, flies and midges. Other types of arthropod produce silk, most notably various arachnids such as spiders (see spider silk).
The mulberry tree is a historic Utah tree, dating back to Brigham Young and silkworms. During the 1860s, Young imported 100,000 mulberry trees from France, then ordered them planted in all parts of Utah.
Since silkworms thrive on mulberry leaves, he obtained silkworm eggs, too, investing about $25,000 in the enterprise. He even supervised the construction of a model cocoonery to house 2,000,000 worms.
George Watt was called on an LDS Church mission to spread "the gospel of silk," and the Deseret Silk Association was organized to disseminate information on the silk culture and distribute eggs. Bishops were urged to set aside a plot of ground for Relief Society mulberry trees.
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