Collection, Processing, and Characterization of Galleria mellonella Silk

  • Author / Creator
    Glasper, Mary J.
  • This study investigates a potential new source of silk fibre, Galleria mellonella Linnaeus (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), commonly known as the greater wax moth. The larvae of this moth are a major pest of stored or unattended beehive brood combs. The larvae produce large quantities of strong, elastic silk in the construction of tunnels to protect themselves from bees in this environment. The unique mechanical properties of Galleria silk, combined with the large quantities produced by the larvae, make it a natural fibre worth investigating for textile end-uses. This research focuses specifically on the collection, processing, and characterization of Galleria silk and serves as an important foundation for the future utilization of this fibre. A method to collect clean cocoons free from frass and debris was developed, and those cocoons were used to assess how effective conventional degumming methods were in removing the sericin coating from Galleria silk. A novel method was developed for collecting naturally spun silk threads directly from the insect, so that the samples were handled as minimally as possible and the results would more closely represent the properties of Galleria silk as extruded by the insect. The results from the tensile tests were compared and contrasted to other studies where mechanical properties of Galleria silk was tested; the results were similarly compared to known values of other lepidopteran and spider silks, and to other man-made materials such as high tenacity textile fibres and steel. This study found that Galleria can be reared in such a way as to collect cocoons free from contamination for degumming and use. The most effective degumming method used in this study, as determined by a combination of quantitative and qualitative evaluation, was boiling the silk in a combined solution of Na2CO3 and sodium lauryl sulfate. Tensile specimens were collected as the insect deposited a single fibre while walking. This approach limited the amount of handling that could alter the silk’s mechanical properties prior to testing. Galleria silk has unique mechanical properties for lepidopteran silk and is more comparable to the properties of commonly studied spider silks. This silk could be a viable alternative to synthetic or transgenically produced spider silks currently being researched and utilized.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
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