cover image Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War

Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War

Jeffrey A. Lockwood, . . Oxford Univ., $27.95 (377pp) ISBN 978-0-19-533305-3

Few people think of flies, scorpions or potato bugs as weapons of war, but entomologist Lockwood (Grasshopper Dreaming ), winner of a Pushcart Prize and a James Burroughs Award, details in this fascinating study how creepy crawlies have been used against the enemy since antiquity. The Romans' siege of a desert fortress ended abruptly when buckets of scorpions were dumped on their heads. Many a medieval army catapulted beehives or hornets' nests over a castle's ramparts to drive out the defenders. The Vietcong used a version of this trick, setting off small explosives near huge beehives when American soldiers walked by. Lockwood tells how the Japanese used Chinese civilians as human guinea pigs in their program to weaponize plague and other diseases. And Lockwood explores charges by the North Koreans and Fidel Castro that America has called out insect troops on occasion as well. Fortunately, as the author points out, insects aren't very cooperative soldiers, and using them to deliver diseases is much easier said than done. Both science and military history buffs will learn much from Lockwood, a self-described “skeptic with a sense of humor.” 49 b&w illus. (Oct.)