Book review: Wicked bugs by Amy Stewart

Asian Giant Hornt    Following on her NY Times' bestseller, Wicked plants, Stewart shows us more monsters and menaces of the natural world in Wicked bugs: the louse that conquered Napoleon's army & other diabolical insects. Most people have heard of spiders eating their mates, but the chapter "She's just not that into you" exposes the mating practices of the bug world as often painful, fatal and violent. Chapters have a descriptive term attached to the top of each page, such as painful/bed bug. So you can choose whether you want gross out, freak out, fright fest, or avoid-this-pest.
    Anyone who has experienced a painful wasp or hornet sting knows viscerally the unique excruciating sensation. Apparently, that is mild compared to the sting of the Asian Giant Hornet.  Called yak-killer in that part of the world, one can only cringe at the thought of an insect capable of killing one of the huge bovines called yaks, which weigh up to a ton and can be over seven feet tall.  Apparently, the hornet's toxins also include pheromones that attract other hornets as well, increasing the likelihood of death in the victim--including humans.
    One of the more ghastly episodes in the book tells of the Uzbek "bug pit" that was used to torture British envoy Charles Stoddart from 1838 to 1842. A British officer tried to rescue him, but he was also thrown into the pit.  Both were eventually beheaded.
    Several chapters focus on human use of wicked bugs, such as on arrow or spear points. The recipes vary from a simple mash and smear to an extremely complicated Yavapai recipe (southwestern US native American) involving a deer liver, spiders, and rattlesnakes. Several chapters, including "The enemy within" are not to be missed by those planning a visit to the Caribbean or less-developed countries--it could save you pain and worry.  Or give you pain and worry.  This book is guaranteed to get under your skin.  You will itch to read the next chapter. Extended reading, however, will cause jumpiness and twitching at the slightest touch.~Tessa J. Eger