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Insect contributes to unique fabric dyes

Date Posted: 2005-03-11

An entomologist has teamed with a Yonaguni Island fabric specialist to create a bright new dye color.

Minoru Muramatsu specializes in protecting and breeding the island’s sun moth. He’s discovered the larvae of moth droppings have a shiny gold and silver color, and turned to a resident fabric expert to transform the brilliant colors into a product. “Please take these droppings and try to make a dye,” he asked. “It is a miracle that the natural gold and silver colors come out.”

Tokumi Sakimoto, 37, tried it and said “wow! It is gorgeous. The shiny silver threads really come out.” She’s now taking the dye and applying it to fabric for commercial sale. The sun moth lives on Yonaguni Island and Iriomote Island, where nobody else inhabits.

The 27-year-old Muramatsu says he got the idea from fellow entomologists in Hyogo Prefecture, at the Itami City Insect Museum. They’d asked for samples of the moth droppings, wondering if the larvae would be useful in commercial applications. “We are more than surprised at this dream. Yonagumi’s sun moth eats all kinds of vegetables,” he says, “but one larvae eats only one vegetable. We’re going to give different color vegetables to different larvae. We hope it means we can make even more colors for dyes, including yellow, green and even blue.”

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