Ephemeri vita, or, The natural history and anatomy of the Ephemeron, a fly that lives but five hours written originally in Low-Dutch by Jo. Swammerdam ...
Swammerdam, Jan, 1637-1680., Tyson, Edward, 1650-1708.
Page  5

CHAP. III.

The Worm being hatched what its First Action is, and what its Food.

HAVING observed what kind of Worm is hatched out of the Egg of the Ephemeron, I shall next describe what the Worms thus hatched first do, and what is their Food.

It is very requisite to know that the Worms rarely or never are found on the ground of the Rivers, or Swimming in the body of the water, for notwithstand∣ing they Swim indifferently swift, and make a kind of a Snake-like motion in the water, bending sometimes their heads downward and sometimes upward, which waved motion the body followeth, yet they keep them∣selves always close the sides or banks of the Rivers, in the stillest places of the water where they have their Cells. And where the places dug for finding them are most Clayie, there are they found in greatest number; yet are they seldom found on the outsides of the Clay, but they have their habitation within the body thereof, and that in oblong round cavities which themselves have made, not sloping downwards, but straight and horizontal, and therefore Vander Kracht in Clutius saith true, that these Insects have each its proper Cell.

As the Bees by an admirable and possibly inimitable art make their own Cells out of Wax; in like manner are these excavated (a) Cavities like Tubes made by these Worms, and digged out according to the size of their bodies: wherefore as soon as these Worms are forced out of their Cells and have nothing to creep on but the Surface of the Earth, having no support for the sides of their Bodies, they soon lose their readiness and swiftness of motion, notwithstanding they are sur∣rounded Page  6 with water, and by means of Swimming can keep themselves up; yet have I found when I had taken a great number of these out of their Cells for to Dissect them, that they always fell on their backs, where they seemed to ly as unable to raise themselves again on their Legs; whereas on the contrary they being in their Tube-like Cells, move very swiftly backwards and forward and all manner of ways. And the same I have also found common in all sorts of worms, that live in such excavated Cells, which move very swiftly in them, but taken out seem to lye as fainting away. As I have also found in the Worms which live in exca∣vated holes of Trees; as also in those which are found in Fruits, Excrescences of Leaves, and in the wart-like Excrescences of Plants. It is very observable that a Wood-worm when drawn out of its Cell, immediately spins a web about its whole body, by which means it is assisted to make a new opening or Cell in the Wood, which without this support of its body it could not do, having herein need thereof to press its body against it.

The Worm out of its Cell is so weak, that Swimming in the water, and resting there a small time, immedi∣ately and without order it sinketh to the ground and there remaineth lying on its back.

But to proceed, the Worms as soon as hatched be∣take themselves to bore their Cells, the which as is said they make in the Clay, oblong, sometimes straight & sometimes crooked, which they by degrees in∣large according to the increase of their body in bigness; so that the old Worms live in (b) wider Tubes or Cells, and the young Worms in (c) narrower.

To this purpose the wise Creator hath furnished them with fit members;* for besides that their Two Fore∣legs are formed somewhat like those of the ordinary Moles or the Eve-Chur,* or Gryllo-talpa, he hath also fur∣nished them with two Toothy Cheeks, somewhat like the Sheres of Lobsters, which serve them more readi∣ly to bore the Clay.

Page  7The Worms being placed in a Vessel with Clay mixed with some water, you will immediately see them begin to make their Cells, and if it happen you provide them not Clay enough, they cannot hide their design, but will be continually wrooting the Clay through and through, and hiding under the Clay sometimes their head, sometimes their body, and some∣times their tail, always endeavouring to make new Cells.

The Fishermen assure us from their experience that when the water of the River falleth or runneth off, they then bore their Cells lower and deeper in the Clay, and when the water again riseth they also rise higher; which I judge to them most needful, in consi∣deration of the many Lungs and Air-Vessels in these Worms, for to supply which they must oft take fresh air, which they could not do, if they remained in the depth when the water rose.

I have often experienced that these Worms taken out of their holes and placed in wet sand, do then rather creep out of the water than go downwards to∣ward the bottom under the sand, which they seem to do as well for want of Clay, as for the warmth of the water which seemeth hurtful to them.

Concerning what their Food is, is difficult to find out except by help of Anatomy, which hath taught me their Food to be only Clay: for at what time soever they are opened, in their Stomach is found Clay, as also in the thick and small guts, in the same manner likewise is always found in the Intestines of Earth-worms, earth and sand; of which when they have fed, they eject the remainder in a Crooked knobby form, as is to be seen in the entrance of their Cells.

As for the Moths which eat Wool and Furr, there are two things very considerable, and suiting very well with this relation; the first, that the Cells they make to themselves, wherein they live, and with which as their house, Tortoise-like, they move from place to place, Page  8 they make of the matter next at hand; the second is, that they feed also on the same: therefore when you find their Cells, or rather coats or cases to be made of Yellow, Green, Blew or Black cloth, you will also find their dung of the same colour: So that desiring to have most fine Chopt Cloth, you need but seek it in their dung, and it were not possible to find finer shred flowers or herbs than in the dung of those Insects that feed on them. Which possibly might be of good use for the better extracting the Colours and Vertues of Vegeta∣bles, which appeareth after it hath rained for some days, at which time the dung of these Insects is in that manner melted, that then walking through the Gar∣dens, you will discern on the Linnen laid on the ground for Whitening, spots of several colours which are very hard to be got out again. In those Boxes in which the Druggists and Apothecaries keep their Drugs, you will sometimes find some Ounces of these Evacuations, out of which might be extracted the vertue and colour of the Vegetable, whereas mistakingly they are often sold for the Seeds of those Drugs.

Like as the Moth feedeth on the same substance whereof it maketh its Cell or Case, so do also our Worms; but as I said, this is not to be discovered but by Dissecting them: which way of certainly knowing the Food of any Insect or other creature, hath not its only use in these Insects, but also in Fowls, Fishes and other Animals, which we may desire to preserve and nourish. And for the knowledge of what their food is, we may in the ordinary way be much to seek. It hath also its use concerning hurtful and much damage-causing creatures whose destruction we therefore are desiring. In this manner I find commonly in the sto∣mach of the Mole, parts of Ground-worms, which they very greedily eat, and for which cause alone they seem thus to wroot in the earth. It will be therefore an easie way to destroy them, if with the blood of a Mole you mix some Ratsbain and chopt Ground-worms, as ex∣perience Page  9 hath taught: to get the blood of a Mole, clip off a piece of his Nose, whereat much bloud will issue.