Six-legged Soldiers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War
Author Jeffrey A. Lockwood
Country USA
Language English
Subject Entomological warfare
Genre Nonfiction
Publisher Oxford University Press
Publication date
October 10, 2008
Media type Hardcover
Pages 400
ISBN 0-19-533305-5
OCLC 192109802
358/.3882 22
LC Class UG447.8 .L63 2009

"I think a small terrorist cell could very easily develop an insect-based weapon... The raw material is in the back yard." (Lockwood, to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, 2009)


Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War is a nonfiction scientific warfare book written by award-winning author and University of Wyoming professor, Jeffrey A. Lockwood. Published in 2008 by Oxford University Press, the book explores the history of bioterrorism, entomological warfare, biological warfare, and the prevention of agro-terrorism from the earliest times to modern threats.[2] Lockwood, an entomologist, preceded this book with Ethical issues in biological control (1997) and Locust: The devastating rise and mysterious disappearance of the insect that shaped the American frontier (2004), among others.


Six-Legged Soldiers gives detailed examples of entomological warfare: using buckets of scorpions during a fortress siege, catapulting beehives ("bee bombs") across a castle wall, civilians as human guinea pigs in an effort to weaponize the plague, bombarding civilians from the air with infection-bearing insects, and assassin bugs placed on prisoners to eat away their flesh.[2][3] Lockwood also describes a domestic ecoterrorism example with the 1989 threat to release the Medfly (Ceratitis capitata) within California's crop belt.[4] The last chapter highlights western nations' vulnerability to terrorist attacks.[5]

Interviewed about the book by BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the author describes how a terrorist with a suitcase could bring diseases into a country. "I think a small terrorist cell could very easily develop an insect-based weapon."[1]


In its January 2009 review, The Sunday Times criticised the book as being "scarcely scholarly" for its mixed collection of myth, legend and historical facts.[2]

The Author Replies:

Reviewers have described themselves as skeptics and asserted that Six-Legged Soldiers is “devoid of rigour” or “scarcely scholarly.” What such folks seem to have missed is that I share their doubts (e.g., the US military weaponized yellow fever mosquitoes during the Cold War, I don’t believe that the Americans waged wholesale entomological warfare against North Korea or Cuba). As I noted in the preface of the book:

It is my sense that human organizations—including universities, religious associations, corporate enterprises, government laboratories, federal agencies, and international bodies—have as their primary goal the acquisition and maintenance of power, not the search for and reporting of the truth.

What I am less skeptical about is the reader, believing that readers of science and history are generally astute folks. As such, I chose to respect their intelligence rather than donning the paternalistic mantle of academic authority (can anybody really claim to be an expert on warfare from the Paleolithic to the present?). As a writer and professor, I am not in the business of sparing people from having to think. Instead, the preface makes clear that:

The reader may be rightfully dubious of various accounts in this book. I know that I am. In this regard, I should hasten to note that I’ve consciously chosen to be inclusive in my research, allowing all plausible—even if hard to believe—claims their place in the story.

And so, those who suggest that I endorse various views and reports by virtue of having included them in the book have evidently failed to read the preface. Indeed, careless readers are prone to all sorts of misunderstandings, such as Mr. Hastings of the who suggested that Napoleon’s forces were devastated by “typhus borne by fleas” (the disease being carried by lice) and that Generals Grant and Lee were not “clever or fiendish enough” to employ biological warfare (there is no such claim in the book, although I do contend, along with Civil War historians, that General Johnston unwittingly allied with mosquitoes when he knowingly and effectively inflicted disease on his enemy by pinning down a superior Union force in the malaria-ridden marshes outside of Richmond).

So, for the reader (or reviewer) who wants to understand the perspective from which the book was written, please don’t skip the preface.


  1. ^ a b Adams, Stephen (5 Jan 2009). "Terrorists could use 'insect-based' biological weapon". Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  2. ^ a b c Hastings, Max (January 4, 2009). "Six-legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War by Jeffrey A Lockwood". Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  3. ^ "Nonfiction Reviews". Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War Jeffrey A. Lockwood. Oxford Univ., $27.95. Publishers Weekly. August 18, 2008. Archived from the original on January 7, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  4. ^ "Six-Legged Soldiers". Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  5. ^ Linthicum, Kenneth J. (November 5, 2008). "Insects of war, terror and torture". Nature (Nature Publishing Group) 456 (7218): 36–37. doi:10.1038/456036a. ISSN 0028-0836.