Background To better understand the molecular interactions of Bt toxins with non-target insects, we have examined the real-time binding specificity and affinity of Cry1 toxins to native silkworm (Bombyx mori) midgut receptors. Previous studies on B. mori receptors utilized brush border membrane vesicles or purifed receptors in blot-type assays. Results The Bombyx mori (silkworm) aminopeptidase N (APN) and cadherin-like receptors for Bacillus thuringiensis insecticidal Cry1Aa toxin were purified and their real-time binding affinities for Cry toxins were examined by surface plasmon resonance. Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac toxins did not bind to the immobilized native receptors, correlating with their low toxicities. Cry1Aa displayed moderate affinity for B. mori APN (75 nM), and unusually tight binding to the cadherin-like receptor (2.6 nM), which results from slow dissociation rates. The binding of a hybrid toxin (Aa/Aa/Ac) was identical to Cry1Aa. Conclusions These results indicate domain II of Cry1Aa is essential for binding to native B. mori receptors and for toxicity. Moreover, the high-affinity binding of Cry1Aa to native cadherin-like receptor emphasizes the importance of this receptor class for Bt toxin research.