Six-legged Soldiers

Six-legged Soldiers

Using Insects as Weapons of War

Book - 2009
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Baker & Taylor
Examines how insects have been used as weapons in wartime conflicts throughout history, presenting as examples how scorpions were used in Roman times and hornets nests were used during the MIddle Ages in siege warfare and how insects have been used in Vietnam, China, and Korea.

Oxford University Press
The emir of Bukhara used assassin bugs to eat away the flesh of his prisoners. General Ishii Shiro during World War II released hundreds of millions of infected insects across China, ultimately causing more deaths than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. These are just two of many startling examples found in Six-legged Soldiers, a brilliant portrait of the many weirdly creative, truly frightening, and ultimately powerful ways in which insects have been used as weapons of war, terror, and torture.
Beginning in prehistoric times and building toward a near and disturbing future, the reader is taken on a journey of innovation and depravity. Award-winning science writer Jeffrey A. Lockwood begins with the development of "bee bombs" in the ancient world and explores the role of insect-borne disease in changing the course of major battles, ranging from Napoleon's military campaigns to the trenches of World War I. He explores the horrific programs of insect warfare during World War II: airplanes dropping plague-infested fleas, facilities rearing tens of millions of hungry beetles to destroy crops, and prison camps staffed by doctors testing disease-carrying lice on inmates. The Cold War saw secret government operations involving the mass release of specially developed strains of mosquitoes on an unsuspecting American public--along with the alleged use of disease-carrying and crop-eating pests against North Korea and Cuba. Lockwood reveals how easy it would be to use of insects in warfare and terrorism today: In 1989, domestic ecoterrorists extorted government officials and wreaked economic and political havoc by threatening to release the notorious Medfly into California's crops.
A remarkable story of human ingenuity--and brutality--Six-Legged Soldiers is the first comprehensive look at the use of insects as weapons of war, from ancient times to the present day.

Publisher: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2009
ISBN: 9780195333053
Branch Call Number: 358.3882 LO
Characteristics: xx, 377 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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Dec 21, 2011

This book is part history, part future speculation. The history section is cautiously written, but most informative, with no obvious bias towards/against any one country. It covers throwing wasp nests, scorpions and diseased corpses over ancient Egyptian walls to the possibility that West Nile virus was introduced by Saddam Hussein. Anyone who thinks they can trust their government will be disabused by the descriptions of the various efforts during WW2.

For the future, Lockwood paints a disturbing picture where small-time terrorists could cause incalculable damage to a modern society by the introduction of diseases carried by insects without anyone knowing. However, the possibilities he considers most likely for terrorists, yellow fever, cholera, typhus and Rift Valley fever, already have vaccines developed. It would require state-sponsored labs to come up with the real doomsday bugs.

Not the kind of subject to promote a good night's sleep.


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