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Prospects for development of a wild silk industry in Africa would be improved if silkworm survival during mass production could be improved. A study on the survival of the Boisduval silkworm, Anaphe panda (Boisduval) (Lepidoptera: Thaumetopoeidae) was conducted with and without protection by net sleeves in two different forest habitats (natural and modified) in the Kakamega forest of western Kenya. Overall, cohort survival was significantly higher (P < 0.001) in the natural than in the modified forest, but larval survival was improved over three-fold by protection with net sleeves in both habitat types. In the modified forest, only 16.8% of unprotected larvae survived to the pupal stage and formed cocoons, whereas 62.3% survived in the same environment when they were protected with net sleeves. In the natural forest, 20.4% of unprotected larvae survived, whereas 67.7% survived in net sleeves. There was also a significant effect of season; cohorts of larvae that eclosed in the wet season had significantly lower survival than those eclosing in the dry season (P = 0.02). Sources of mortality appeared to be natural enemies (parasites, predators and diseases) and climatic factors.