Antheraea pernyi (Guérin-Méneville)
This is the best-known and most widely used of all the wild silks. It is derived from Antheraea pernyi (Guérin-Méneville), grown outdoors on oak trees in China for more than two millennia (Chou 1990). The natural color of the silk is a pinkish beige. In the 1970s and 1980s China expanded tussah sericulture to most of its provinces, but has since abandoned these efforts in the South. Tussah is now primarily grown in the Northeast, in the provinces of Shandong, Liaoning, and Hebei. It was introduced into Japan in 1877 where it was cultivated locally on a small scale in the 20th century. Tussah silk is also raised in both Koreas.
The book cited here as SRIL (1994) is a comprehensive reference that provides text and color figures of larvae, cocoons, and adults of over 100 named varieties (strains) of A. pernyi. The caterpillars are normally green, but some strains have yellow, blue, and even orange larvae. The cocoons are normally beige, but some strains with white silk have been developed at the Sericulture Research Institute of Liaoning in Fengcheng. Other important research centers for tussah are in Shenyang and Dandong, the latter city on the Yalu River across from North Korea. Because it is so easy to rear, Antheraea pernyi has been used in laboratories around the world to study diapause, endocrinology, and other aspects of insect physiology. Many articles of clothing in the West contain tussah silk. The reeled silk has a smooth sheen like domestic silk, but the rougher spun silk is highly favored by designers of high-end fashion to make women’s and men’s suits, blazers, dresses, shirts, scarves, and other garments and accessories. Sometimes tussah is blended with cotton or synthetic fibers. Tussah silk floss is also used in quilting to make duvets. Tussah is popular with Americans who have spinning wheels, and many women like to knit or crochet sweaters and scarves with tussah yarn. Tussah fabrics are obtainable on the internet from retail sellers in the United States.
Chou, I. 1990. A History of Chinese Entomology. (Translated by Siming Wang.) Tianze Press, Xian. 248 pp., 32 color plates.
SRIL. 1994. [Editorial team at Sericultural Research Institute of Liaoning.] The records of
tussah varieties in China. Liaoning Science Technology Publishing House, Shenyang.
6 274 pp. [in Chinese]
Wardle, T. 1881. Handbook of the collection illustrative of the wild silks of India, in the
Indian section of the South Kensington Museum, with a catalogue of the collection and
numerous illustrations. Facsimile reprint 2007. Kessinger Publishing, Whitefish, Montana.
xii + 163 pp.