From Lev Michael at Greater Blogazonia:
I was briefly excited by the title of a recent Language Log post, Earworms and White Bears, thinking it might have something to say about, well, worms that people put in their ears. However, we immediately learn that the earworms in question are simply catchy tunes that get caught in people’s minds.
My excitement, though, stems from the fact that the Nantis of southeastern Peruvian Amazonia, with whom I have worked a bit (see here and here), actually do sometimes put worms — or more precisely, larvae — in their ears. I’ve never heard or read about any other group that makes use of larvae in this way, though, so I was momentarily hoping that Language Log would change that
The Nantis call the larvae in question magempiri, and they are one of a number of larvae that Nantis help flourish by means of a form of low-intensity animal husbandry where they puncture the trunks of the palm species in which the relevant species of beetle must lay their eggs. When the magempiri are the right size, a portion of the trunk is split open and some larvae removed, together with some of the pulp on which the larvae are feeding. The pulp and larvae are then wrapped up in Heliconia leaves, in which the larvae can live for several days.
The magempiri are used to clean one’s ears: tilting one’s head, one drops a larva into the ear canal and the magempiri then starts munching away on what it finds there, creating an incredible racket (for the temporary host), and producing a funny if somewhat gratifying ticklish feeling. When the magempiri gets full, it becomes inactive, and simply falls out of the ear canal when the user tilts his or her head the opposite way. Repeat until satisfied.
Read the whole thing, for the bonus discussion of the morphology of magempiri.
Magempiri are one of the few things that you can't yet buy from amazon.com, at least not under that name.