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Insects as weapons of terror?

Have you ever felt like insects were terrorizing you?

6leggedsoldiers The fear that insects invoke, not to mention the disease they can transmit, has led some to consider their use as weapons -- including Jeffrey Lockwood, professor of entomology at Wyoming University and author of Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War.

From a book review on nature.com:

"Six-Legged Soldiers describes many potential or actual uses of insects as offensive weapons during the past 100,000 years, with an emphasis on the past 300 years. Entomologist Jeffrey Lockwood describes how stinging and highly toxic insects and other arthropods have been used to cause pain and suffering to foes — from the use of bees and hornets by early humans to attack enemies, to the assassin bugs used by an Uzbek emir for torture in the early 1800s."

In this article from the UK Telegraph, Lockwood warns that today's terrorists could find it "relatively easy" to launch an attack using swarms of insects.

Lockwood's book discusses the possibility of an insect-borne plague unleashed offensively, but insects have long been a threat to the military by their naturally-occurring presence where the wars are fought.

The U.S. Army has a Medical Entomology division, which got its start when Maj. Walter Reed discovered that mosquitoes transmitted yellow fever -- which, along with other diseases degraded the military's ability to fight. In World War II, the Army recognized the importance of controlling vector-borne diseases and began commissioning entomologists. (For more on the history of entomology and the U.S. military, visit this link.)

Mosquito And speaking of the military, our company actually has a role in the pest management efforts of the U.S. military, with our current research into a personal mosquito repellent device under a Department of Defense grant.

January 6, 2009 in Bugs in the news, Entomology | Permalink


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