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.


How long this Worm feedeth: why named Aas or Baite: And how strong its life is.

HAVING described the Egg, the Worm, and its Nourishment; the next thing remarkable will be, to consider how long it feedeth. For notwithstand∣ing it may seem strange to limit the duration of a Crea∣tures feeding, whose life is as to us wholly hid in the earth and water; yet it is not unfeasible by considering the differing sizes of these Worms. For whereas the smallest size worms after one years feeding, are in length ¾ of one Holland inch; and that the second size are then in length 1 and ⅔ of the same inches, it fol∣loweth by consequence that every Worm is Three years feeding, before it is fitted for its change, at which third year the Worm now full grown is 2½ inches long.

These full fed and full grown Worms now quit their Cells and the water to fly in the air, as follow∣ing I shall describe. But as no creature is without its enemy, in like manner these Worms when they take the water to attain their flight, are immediately preyed on by the Fish; and although they have escaped that danger and attained the use of their wings, yet are they not free from a second danger, namely, of being prey∣ed on by Birds; which hath given occasion to some Seamen, Fishermen and other people, dwelling on the Banks of the Rhine observing the same to use these Worms for a bait to fish with; which therefore is the Page  10 true reason why these Worms are named Aas or Bait, and Over Aas or Shore-bait by those who live about Wyk te Deurstede, Cuilenborch, and other places. And from hence also it is that when these Worms are become Fledg'd and have taken the Air, they are in the aforesaid places named Uluchtich aas or Flying bait, whereas by those of Rotterdam, Shoonhoven, and Dordrecht, the oldest City in Holland, this Worm be∣ing Fledg'd is named Haft, from whence that so much known Low-Dutch Proverb is derived, Het isser so dicht als Haft, they are in multitude like Haft, for these Worms thus fledg'd flie in multitudes like the falling Snow.

At all times of the Year when the Season is fit for Fishing, these Worms make a good Bait; for because they live Three years in the water and clay before they take their flight, they may at all times of the year be dug out of the clay in those rivers for that use.

When the Fishermen bait their hooks with these Worms, they fix their hook in the head of the Worm where it is hardest and strongest, and for that it lives long, it is the more useful by its motion in the water to allure the Fish, to swallow the hook.

The strength of this Worms life may be discerned by this Experiment, that when once for drying and preserving one of them, I had pierced the head through with a pin, it yet lived the next day, notwithstanding I had put it the whole night before in a Vessel with U∣rine for to kill it: yet nevertheless being taken out of their Clay Cells, and put in a Vessel with water and clay, they live not two dayes. When these Worms therefore are to be preserved, they must only be placed in moist sand or wetted clay, in which I have found the greatest sort to live Four days, and the small worms Eight days, but wholly under water they cannot sub∣sist.

For sending these Worms elsewhere, there is no better way than to bind some of the greatest hollow Page  11 Reeds together, and to cause the worms to run in them, wherein they will remain without hurting one an∣other, which otherwise they are subject to do, when moving nigh one the other; and this way they might be removed into other Rivers, as Fish are removed.