1. inquisitiveraven says

    Nomenclature aside, it’s actually caterpillar spit, so no, I wouldn’t wear worm spit.

  2. ChasCPeterson says

    eh, ‘worms’ is the most polyphyletic taxon ever, except maybe ‘algae’ and ‘protists’.
    No harm in including holometabolous insect larvae.

  3. Al Dente says

    unclefrogy @3

    it appears that the Chinese were making silk cloth before Adam and Eve were out of the garden.

    What’s more, the Chinese continued making silk completely unhindered by the Noachian flood, despite all of them being drowned.

  4. saganite says

    Eh, it’s a cute creature, so, sure.
    But then I also really like old, coagulated milk and fermented hops and stuff.

  5. garnetstar says

    I always wonder about how such things were originally discovered. With foodtuffs, it’s easy: if you were hungry enough, you would try anything, no matter how unsavory-looking. Even chicken feet, crabs, or bird’s nests.

    But, who would have thought “Hey, this cocoon is nice and furry. I know, we can make clothes out of it!” So inventive.

    Well, people did have to have something to do in the evenings back then, since they weren’t watching TV.

  6. moarscienceplz says

    I always wonder about how such things were originally discovered.

    Silk probably was used for string and rope before it was woven into cloth. Strings and ropes are very useful things to have, but it’s difficult to make strong ones because long fibers are relatively rare. Too few people appreciate the technology humans have developed in this area. I saw an episode of Time Team America where they were speculating about the invention of bow and arrow in the Americas. I just about yelled at the screen when they proudly showed off their homemade bow and then casually mentioned that now all it needed was “a simple string”, and then proceeded to fit a modern string to it. It’s kind of like saying you could build an airplane from scratch as long as you have a jet engine lying around somewhere.

  7. frog says

    Larva spit is one of my favorite things to wear. It’s warm but breathable, it’s soft and non-irritating, and it tailors well for a wide range of body types. It isn’t cheap, but it’s a lot less expensive now than it was when I was young.

    Silk is a saving-grace fabric for me. I can’t wear most forms of wool, and artificial fibers are chancy. The cotton market in recent years has been flooded with some coarse crap–I have no idea where it’s coming from but you can’t buy a decent pillowcase anymore and I’ve even had T-shirts that need 5 or 10 washings before they stop itching my neck.

    I love those silk-producing bugs. Give them extra-special mulberry leaves, I say.

  8. cuervocuero says


    I believe you got it in one, since they still steam/’boil’ the cocoons to break them down for unraveling. At some point, somewhen, someone (likely female) threw the larval nummies in a seething soup and realized the casing was a good dental floss. The nekked silkworms are also still a foodstuff. You can find them on offer online. I usually see tinned versions. Always reminds me how narrow my preferred cuisine palate is.

  9. ChasCPeterson says

    chicken menstruation

    No. no, no, no.

    Worms are paraphyletic, not polyphyletic. Insect larvae don’t belong.

    Are you being serious? The Anglo-Saxon word ‘worm’ has no formal taxonomic significance whatsoever. Linnaeus’s ‘Vermes’ was always a trashcan.

    Animals called ‘worms’ do in fact include some insect larvae (see the OP) and at least one vertebrate, as well as your annelids (of all types), nematodes, flatworms, acoels, acanthocephalans, chaetognaths, entoprocts, gnathostomulids, hemichordates, nematomorphs, nemerteans, onychophorans, phoronids, priapulids, sipunculans, and xenoturbellids. Maggots are commonly called “worms”; glowworms, armyworms, bagworms, inchworms, and cutworms are insects, so why in the wide world not (other) caterpillars?

    I suppose that you are correct that, granting that the Urbilaterian would almost certainly be called a ‘worm’ if we saw it today, the group of animals listed above would be (massively) paraphyletic, as opposed to polyphyletic.
    However, if you accept the existence of cnidarian ‘worms’ then it’s true polyphyly.

    Either way, ‘worm’ is a term of extremely low precision.

  10. says

    I’m actually amazed that anyone figured out that you can take simple fibers and make cloth out of it. You can take fibers and twist them in your hand to make bits of thread, but going from that to useful string and rope is a pretty big leap, and going from that to woven cloth is a much bigger leap. Once people had figured out how to do it with plant fibers and animal hair, doing it with cocoons probably didn’t take much imagination.

  11. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Am I the only one who finds that silkworm adorable? I just want to hug it.

  12. monad says

    @18 ChasCPeterson:
    I guess semi-serious. I genuinely don’t like when categories based on plesiomorphies get called polyphyletic; it seems like it leads to terms that are entirely useful, sometimes even for discussing evolution. But worms aren’t one of those, and it’s a good point that they never had a real definition beyond a colloquial use that can include larvae. So sorry for being snippy.

    I had also thought Myxozoa were still thought to be Bilateria, which I guess is several years out of date. Thanks for leading me to an update.

  13. lpetrich says

    Snakes are legless, much longer than their width, and able to do a lot of coiling. So by a typical informal definition of “worm”, snakes qualify as worms. In fact, snakes have sometimes been called worms. In Old English, “wyrm” meant worm and snake, and the Swedish word for snake, “orm”, is a cognate.

    So we can add Serpentes to Vermes.