A single bug couldn’t do much damage. Unless you’re scared of them, then maybe you’ll freak out. But as they say, there’s strength in numbers, and that’s when insects truly become threats that could cause great damage either by inflicting pain or causing diseases that could, in turn, result in death. The Great Plague in England in 1665 wiped out almost a quarter of London’s population in 18 months, with around 100,000 deaths. It turned out this was caused by rat fleas. It is a different story when these small critters are purposely used to cause havoc among the enemies, like when Japan dropped plague-infected fleas and cholera-coated flies in China, triggering a serious outbreak of the diseases during WWII.

Here are some other instances of weaponizing insects:

Scorpion Pots

When the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus wanted to capture Hatra, an ancient city in Upper Mesopotamia, at the end of the 2nd century, they were welcomed by scorpion bombs. Severus planned to gain control of the desert of Hatra that controlled the Silk Road— a large network of trade routes connecting China and the Far East with the Middle East and Europe. King Barsamia and the whole city were protected by 40-foot tall perimeter walls. The locals were also well-aware that their region was blessed with plenty of scorpions that could inflict painful stings and that they have venoms that could cause irregular breathing, slowed pulse, convulsions, and even death.

Scorpion from Blathur, Kerala. (Vijayakumar BlathurCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

And so when the Romans reached the walls of Hatra, the defenders rained them down with earthenware bombshells with scorpions surprise inside, inflicting agonizing punishment in the form of arachnids. The Romans were stung on their legs, arms, and faces that were exposed. Because of this, Severus’ troops were held at bay, and it took his troops 20 days before breaking off the battle and retreating.

According to Entomology Today, “It’s possible that these literal bug bombs also contained rove beetles in the genus Paederus. These small rove beetles’ hemolymph contains the compound pederin. Pederin causes dermatitis and blistering when contacting skin, a likely scenario when panicked warriors began smashing beetles thrown onto them.”

Bug Pit

What’s worse than being imprisoned in a pit that’s 12 and 40 feet deep? The 19-century Emir of Bukhara Nasrullah Bahadur‑Khan knew just what.

According to historians, Emir would toss his enemies in the bug pit covered with an iron grate and accessible only by a rope. He made sure to keep them company by regularly tossing assassin bugs and sheep ticks. Assassin bugs are carnivorous insects about 1-inch long with stout, curved beaks used to pierce other insects. However, during a time of desperation, they would feed on people. Their stings were comparable to hot needles, with their digestive enzymes being injected to liquefy the tissues of their prey. The victims would be slowly eaten alive; their flesh gnawed off.

Assassin Bug
Assassin Bug (Reduviidae) (Bernard DUPONT from FRANCECC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

In 1839, a British Colonel named Charles Stoddart was sent to Central Asian hinterlands by Queen Victoria for a diplomatic mission. He ended up being tossed by Emir in the bug pit where he would spend the next two years. God knows how confined and alone it was in there.

British captain named Arthur Conolly was sent to rescue him in 1841, but he was also tossed in the same pit where they spent another year. As Vice wrote in an article, “By the time they were hauled up into the sunlight for a public beheading, their’ bodies were covered with sores, their hair, beards, and clothes alive with lice.'”

Booby Traps Of Bugs

The Vietnam jungle is notorious for all sorts of creepy crawlies that the Viet Cong (VC) used in them in their favor during the Vietnam War. They would fling wasp and hornet nests into U.S. positions, and while this was not enough to stop the troops, it would distract and slow them down enough for the VC to lower down their defenses, even for a short while.

“Tunnel rat” is preparing to place charges and make connections for detonation. (U.S. Army, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

They would also hide scorpions on the roof cavity of their tunnels, so when a “tunnel rat” (a soldier who was tasked to crawl in and perform underground search and destroy missions in these narrow tunnels) gets in, move the tripwire, scorpions would rain down on him. I mean, imagine being covered by those stingers while you’re confined in such a small, small space that you couldn’t even shake them off.