Entomological warfare

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Entomological warfare is a form of biological warfare in which insects are used to attack the enemy – either directly or as vectors to deliver a biological agent, such as plague or cholera. This form of biological warfare has been in existence for centuries, even in war between nations. Medieval troops catapulted beehives and wasp nests into enemy strongholds. Armies have used pests to destroy the food supplies of other nations—such as the Nazis rearing millions of Colorado potato beetles for use against England.


Why should I be aware of this?

It is feared by experts that eco-terrorists could unleash entomological warfare which could spread disease and destroy crops with devastating speed. It could be the next big weapon after nuclear weapons and nerve gas. It can also be an ideal weapon for modern terrorism nature of modern terrorism which often uses seemingly innocent devices to catch people offguard.

All about Entomological warfare

There are three varieties of entomological warfare.

  • One involves infecting insects with a pathogen and then dispersing them over the target areas. Then any person or animal bitten by the insect gets infected.
  • Another is a direct insect attack against crops. In such cases even if the insects are not infected with any pathogen they represent a threat to agriculture.
  • The last method uses uninfected insects, such as bees, to directly attack the enemy.

Used as weapon of war

Insects have been used with phenomenal success as weapons of war. They have been used most infamously during World War II by Japan who used plague-infected fleas and cholera-coated flies to kill nearly half-a-million Chinese.

In the 14th century, 75million people succumbed to flea-borne bubonic plague. But few realized that the Black Death arrived in Europe after the Mongols catapulted flea-ridden corpses into the port of Kaffa. People fled, carrying bacteria, rats and fleas throughout the Mediterranean. [1]

Terrorist weapon

An insect-based weapon can be easily developed by a terrorist organization, according to Jeffrey Lockwood, a professor of entomology and author of Six-legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War. [2] It would be much easier to develop than a nuclear or chemical weapon since the “raw material is in the back yard.”

A Times Online report expressed fears that the next big weapon could actually be insects unleashed by eco-terrorists which could spread disease and destroy crops with devastating speed. Insects are one of the cheapest and most destructive weapons available to terrorists today. They are also one of the most ignored weapons. They are easy to sneak across borders, reproduce quickly and can spread disease and destroy crops rapidly.


  • In World War II, the French and Germans pursued the mass production and dispersion of Colorado potato beetles to destroy enemy food supplies.
  • The Japanese military sprayed disease-carrying fleas from low-flying airplanes and dropped bombs packed with flies and a slurry of cholera bacteria.
  • During the Cold War, the US military planned a facility to produce 100 million yellow-fever-infected mosquitoes a month, produced an "Entomological Warfare Target Analysis" of vulnerable sites in the Soviet Union and among its allies, and tested the dispersal and biting capacity of (uninfected) mosquitoes by secretly dropping the insects over American cities.
  • The Asian longhorned beetle, which first appeared in 1996 and the emerald ash borer, found in 2002, together have the potential to destroy more than $700 billion worth of forests, according to the US Department of Agriculture. [1]

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Additional information


  • Terror buzz: Insects could be next WMD
  • The story of entomological warfare that has never been told
  • Terrorist Insects


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Times of India
  2. Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War