OK, technically, he's not a worm. He's larvae. The larval stage of a Tiger Beetle, to be exact. This fierce beast is known by other names in various regions of the country, but in the South, he has the somewhat unfortunate moniker of Chicken Choker.
|The barbs on a Chicken Choker's back.|
By the way, all of the pictures on this post came from here. It's a good site to visit on those numerous occasions when you need a good bug picture.
|A Chicken Choker poised to strike!|
Lest you think I'm making all this up, here is a reference in the scientific literature to the technique of "fishing" for Tiger Beetle larvae. Look on pages 202 and 203. So see, even smart guys are willing to get a broom straw and go after the fierce beast.
|The much-feared pinchers, up close and personal.|
So, once captured, what do you do with the creature? Most of the kids in my neighborhood subscribed to the "catch and release" school of thought. We would admire the beast for it's magnificent ugliness, and then put it back in its hole. This was also perhaps a bit self-serving, because we would often return to catch the monster again on another day. It seems that Chicken Chokers have such a distaste for having a broom straw jabbed on top of their head that they will, repeatedly, retaliate with their pinchers, knowing full well what the inevitable consequence must be.
|An adult Tiger Beetle|
For further reading on kids and bugs, I recommend this entry from one of the world's greatest bloggers, Suldog. Sully, too, spent quite a bit of time looking for bugs.
Anyway, I find it reassuring that something as ugly as a Chicken Choker can turn into such a nice looking bug. Just goes to show, it ain't over 'till it's over. Here's to good hunting...