Silkworms were first discovered in China, spreading to the Far East, Iran, Turkey and Cyprus. The breeding of silkworms has been part of the Cypriot culture for centuries, and until recently was a major source of income.
In the 18th century, silkworm breeders began exporting to the UK. Cyprus was renouned for producing silk which was much in demand because it was of a far higher quality, and its thread was much more durable than others. This was an important export for the island.
A by-product from the silk spinning were the empty silk cocoons. Cypriot women would cut these cocoons into beautiful shapes and sew them onto velvet or satin cloths. As recently as the 1960s, silkworms were abundant, with many families living on the trade. Since then, however, there has been a decline in silkworm breeding, and by 2000, the trade had almost disappeared. and over the years this craft was forgotten.
Recently the Green Action Group has brought this custom back to life. Now in many towns and villages training lessons are offered in this traditional practice. The Bellapais Silk Festivalís main focus is on silk, silk worms and of course on the products made from the cocoons, such as trays, cards and pictures.
The Green Action Group, which was established in 1988, holds an annual festival in April or May, normally at Bellapais, as part of its public awareness campaign about the importance and protection of the endemics and other flora of Cyprus in order to protect mulberry trees and revitalise silkworm growing and artwork.