Gonometa posticaKalahari Wild Silk
Kalahari Wild Silk
This silk was not exploited until the 1980s as far as we know. Various small ventures have produced enough silk to make some scarves and shawls and even some clothing. Four of these have been in the Johannnesburg area, the North West Province of South Africa, eastern Namibia, and eastern Botswana. We have been able to obtain scarves and other small pieces in recent years by searching internet sources.
Two species are used for silk. One is Gonometa postica (Walker), of which the caterpillars feed on various kinds of trees in the bean family (Leguminosae), including camel thorn (Acacia erioloba), umbrella thorn (A. tortilis), sweet thorn (A. karroo), spike-flowered black-thorn (A. mellifera), mtundo and msasa (both Brachystegia), and mnondo (Julbernardia globiflora). The other silkmoth is Gonometa rufobrunnea Aurivillius (Aurivillius 1927) that feeds almost exclusively on mopane (Colophospermum mopane). Pinhey (1979) figured a pair of moths of G. rufobrunnea incorrectly under the name G. fulvida, but his figures of G. postica are more accurate than those shown by Aurivillius (1927). The moths live in the deserts and savannas. Local people collect the cocoons from the trees. Attempts are being made to only collect emerged cocoons so that this silk can be maintained as a renewable resource. However, populations of the moths fluctuate drastically, and thus there is not a steady and reliable source of cocoons over a period of several years. For these reasons (overexploitation or fluctuating populations), some of the silk projects have been abandoned. The cocoons are oval and hard. When degummed, they yield a very fine floss that can be combed and handspun into soft yarn, which in turn, can be handwoven into nice textiles. The silk takes dyes very well, but the natural golden brown colors are often preferred. Cocoons of Gonometa are also used by San Peoples to make ankle rattles.