Mawtham et al., 2020 KS-1558

Popular article - AN OVERVIEW

M. M. Mawtham* and C. Gailce Leo Justin1

Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore-641003, Tamil Nadu, India 1Anbil Dharmalingam Agricultural College and Research Institute, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Tiruchirappalli-620027, Tamil Nadu, India *Corresponding author: [email protected] Received: Aug 30, 2020; Accepted: Oct 22, 2020


Entomological Warfare (EW) is a type of (BW) that uses as war weapons, tools of and creating nuisance from ancient period to modern period. Minimum 12 orders have been used as biological weapon, which are classified into three categories based on damages viz., direct and indirect. In the first category, insect were weaponized, particularly in Hymenoptera to inflict pain to assailants and second category involves use of insect as pests of agricultural crops which cause severe economic damage. In the third, transmitting insect vectors like Anopheles mosquitoes (transmitting malaria), etc. were used. Insect borne of humans, livestock and agricultural crops constituted more risk in . In the 14th century, Asia Minor transmitted through () was one of the earliest events of using insect as biological weapons during World War II (Chaudhry et al., 2017). This paper clearly discusses the ways in which insects have been used as biological warfare.

Ancient and modern history

Ancient people know about using insects as weapons to attack and to protect themselves from enemies, where hornet was used to dislodge entrenched enemies. In Persian practice, dipteran were used to torture prisoner, by forcing the flies to cause diarrhoea until the enemies succumbed to myiasis and septic. In Rome, emperor was assault to assailant by crafting earthenware vessels loaded with toxic derived . In twelfth century, Hungary defended their city against an Austrian force by dropping beehives on the enemies. were part of city defences from sixteenth century to eighteenth century, when the people built an impenetrable barrier of beehives to resist the enemies (Mayor, 2003). Ottoman Empire declared war in 1801 onwards to French and Europe, when the campaign reached target places before, the soldiers contracted , yellow and fever by , and lice. In the 1800s, Indians used to inflict slow and painful death to enemies. Victims had smeared on their eyes and lips or had their mouths held open with skewers before being staked over hills.

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World War

The French were the first to weaponize insects, including mass rearing and release systems for the , Colorado (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) that had been accidentally introduced into Europe in the course of food shipments during World War I. In the early 1930s, medical doctors, microbiologists and military officers convinced the Japanese war Ministry that other nations were developing biological weapons (BW) and thereby gained support for their research on bioterrorism. During Cold War an array of pathogens and vectors including mosquitoes infected with yellow fever, malaria and dengue; flies carrying dysentery, , and ; fleas harboring plague, infected with and relapsing fever were developed. In ; officially alleged (1952) to the United Nations (U.S. military) had been systematically spread large amount of -carrying insects by aircraft in order to disseminate dangerous . The ISC (International Scientific Commission) recognized evidence of the use of 14 insects (ants, , crickets, fleas, flies, , lice, , and stonef1ies) and different arthropods infected with at least eight pathogens on 33 separate occasions (Table 1.).

Table 1: Insects and their associated disease considered for use as weapons against humans and crops (Riedel, 2004; Lockwood, 2012)

Disease/crops Country Insect Name/country of war damage affected Serbia Typhus (Rickettsia Human body or ticks World War I (2,00,000 prowazekii) people died) World War II (French Europe entomological warfare) Potato (Lepinotarsa decemlineata) Cold war- East of America (USA) Plague (Yersinia Fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis) pestis) World War II (Japanese (4,40,000 House flies (Musca Cholera (Vibrio entomological warfare) people died) domestica) cholerae) American Plague (Yersinia Japanese entomological Fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis) and pestis) warfare (Unit 731) Philippine Human body louse Typhus (Rickettsia World War II (Soviet (Pediculus humanus Germany prowazekii) biological warfare) corporis) (Aedes Yellow fever United States of aegyptus) (Arbovirus) America (USA) Anthrax (Bacillus Blow (Musca vicina) anthracis) Mosquito (Anopheles Malaria gambiae) (Plasmodium

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falciparum and P. vivax) Typhoid United States (Korean North Korea House fly (Muscina (Salmonella typhi) War) stabulans) and plant pathogens Cholera (Vibrio (Hylemya sp.) cholerae) and dysentery Paratyphoid Bottle fly (Lucilia sericata), (Salmonella (Helomyza modesta) paratyphoid bacteria) Midge (Orthocladius sp.) Typhoid (Salmonella typhi) Mosquito (Culex pipiens var. pallens, Aedes Neurotropic koreicus, Trichocera maculipennis bubonic plague Human flea (Pulex irritans) (Yersinisa pestis) Giant honey , (Apis Stinging to United States (Vietnam Vietnam dorsata) humans War) Sugarcane leafhopper Sugarcane - Fiji (Perkinsiella saccharicida) disease (virus) Plant hopper (Tagosodes Rice hoja blanca orizicolus) virus Brown citrus , Transmit Tristeza (Toxoptera citricida ) virus in citrus Citrus leafminer, Citrus (Phyllocnistis citrella) Coffee berry borer United States (U.S.- Coffee Cuba (Hypothenemus hampei) Cuban Conflict) Panicle rice , Rice () tracheal Honey bee mite (Acarapis woodi) Honey bee mite (Varroa Honey bee jacobsoni) Cucrbitaceous and (Thrips palmi) Solanaceous crops Mosquitos (Aedes Yellow fever British (World War II) India aegyptus) (Arbovirus)

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Before twentieth century, the association between insects and diseases were exploited and vectors with pathogens were mass produced as weapon. Now days there are many ways to protect from intruding insects through the application of , vaccines and other legal measures and thus insects were no longer considered as direct weapons. However, socio-political changes have brought insects back to threat and to torture people. Hence, people should be aware of from indirect assailants.


Chaudhary FN, Malik MF, Hussain M and Asif N. (2017). Insects as biological weapons. Journal of Bioterrorism and 9: 156. Lockwood JA. (2012). Insects as weapons of war, terror, and torture. Annual Review of 57: 205-227. Mayor A. (2003). Greek fire, poison arrows and scorpion bombs: Biological and chemical warfare in the ancient World. New York: Overlook Duckworth. pp. 319. Riedel S. (2004). Biological warfare and bioterrorism: a historical review. In Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings. Taylor and Francis 17(4): 400-406.

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