Here begins the account of worms. The worm is a creature which generally springs from flesh, or wood or some other earthly material, but not as the result of intercourse, although occasionally they are hatched from eggs, like the scorpion.
There are worms that live in earth or in water, in air, in flesh, in leaves or in wood, or in clothes. The spider, aranea, is a worm of the air, and gets its name from the fact that it lives on air; it draws out long threads from its small body, and devotes itself continually to spinning its web, never ceasing to toil, constantly suffering loss in its art.
The land-based millipede, multipes, is so called from its large number of feet; rolled up in a ball, it swells in pitchers. The leech, sanguissuga, a water worm, is so called because it sucks blood, sanguinem sugere, and takes by surprise anyone who is drinking water. When it slides down the throat or adheres to any other part of the body, it drains the blood and when it can hold no more, it vomits what it has already swallowed in order to start sucking fresh blood again.
The scorpion is a land worm, to be classed rather with worms than snakes; it is armed with a sting, aculeus, and from that it gets its Greek name, because it sticks its tail into its victim and spreads the poison through the bow-shaped wound. It is a characteristic of the scorpion, that it will not sting the palm of the hand.
The silk-worm is a leaf worm; from the threads it weaves, we make silk. It gets its name because it empties itself when it makes thread and only air is left inside its body. The caterpillar is a leaf worm, often found enveloped in a cabbage or a vine; it gets its name from erodere, ‘to eat away’. Plautus recalls it in this way: ‘She imitates the wicked and worthless beast, wrapped in vine leaves’ (Cistellaria, 728-30). It folds itself up and does not fly about like the locust, which hurries from place to place, in all directions, leaving things half-eaten, but stays amid the fruit that is destined to be destroyed and, munching slowly, consumes everything.
The Greeks call the wood worm teredon because they eat by gnawing their way into wood. We call them termites, for in Latin that is the name given to wood worms, which are hatched from trees felled at the wrong season. The worm found in clothes is called tinea because it gnaws at fabrics, and burrows into them until they are eaten away. For this reason, it is called pertinacious, pertinax, because it works away all the time at the same thing.
Worms of the body are the emigramus, the stomach-worm, the ascaride, the coste, the louse, the flea, the lendex, the tarmus, the tick, the usia, the bug. The emigramus is a worm of the head. The stomach-worm, lumbricus, creeps into or lives in the loins, lumbus. Lice, pediculi, are worms of the body which get their name from their feet, pedes; people on whose bodies lice swarm are called lousy, pediculosi. Fleas, pulices, however, are so called because they live mainly on dust, pulvis. The tarmus is a worm found in pork fat. The tick, ricinus, is a worm associated with dogs, so called because it sticks to their ears, aures; for cenos is the Greek for ‘dog’. The usia is a worm found in pigs, so called because it burns, urere. For when it bites, the place burns so much that blisters form. The bug, cimex, gets its name from its resemblance to a plant which has the same stench; properly speaking, this worm originates in putrid meat.
To repeat, you find the moth in clothes, the caterpillar in vegetables, the termite in wood and the tarmus in pork fat. The worm does not crawl like a snake with visible steps or by the pressure of its scales, because it lacks the firm spine which you find in snakes; but, moving in a straight line, by expanding the contracted parts and contracting the expanded parts of its little body, it unfolds in motion and, impelled in this way, creeps forwards.