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Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army and Other Diabolical Insects | [Amy Stewart]

Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army and Other Diabolical Insects

In this darkly comical look at the sinister side of our relationship with the natural world, Stewart has tracked down over one hundred of our worst entomological foes - creatures that infest, infect, and generally wreak havoc on human affairs. From the world's most painful hornet, to the flies that transmit deadly diseases, to millipedes that stop traffic, to the Japanese beetles munching on your roses, Wicked Bugs delves into the extraordinary powers of many-legged creatures
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Audible Editor Reviews

Award-winning author Amy Stewart's Wicked Bugs is a compendium of every little critter you never want to run into, with interesting history lessons thrown in along the way. Ever hear the one about the guy who committed suicide by Black Widow? How about the time Darwin got some beetle juice squirted into his mouth? Bonus: have enemies? This book will teach you how to coat an arrowhead with poison from various insects and other potentially toxic compounds.

From spiders to stink bugs, this book is not for the faint of heart. Want to have nightmares forever? Picture a locust swarm larger than the state of California. One of the most compelling chapters is one that focuses on zombie bugs, particularly the parasitic Jewel Wasp, which injects venom directly into the brain of a cockroach, then forces the roach to do its bidding.

Coleen Marlo handles the text with an encyclopedic accuracy, narrating swiftly through all manner of latin phylum, order, class, and species with the greatest of ease. In the end, you're thankful that she can keep it clinical, just for the sake of minimizing the sometimes graphic nature of the content.

A big part of the message here is that bugs are more powerful than we give them credit for. Stewart posits that lice, not the harsh Russian winter, may have been the downfall of Napoleon's army. She also implies that Formosan termites may have been responsible for breaking the levies and causing the widespread devastation of Hurricane Katrina. If you had any doubt about it before, you can put it to rest now; bugs really are wicked.

Creepy? Yes. Morbid? Sometimes. Informative? Most definitely. —Gina Pensiero

Publisher's Summary

In this darkly comical look at the sinister side of our relationship with the natural world, Stewart has tracked down over one hundred of our worst entomological foes - creatures that infest, infect, and generally wreak havoc on human affairs. From the world's most painful hornet, to the flies that transmit deadly diseases, to millipedes that stop traffic, to the Japanese beetles munching on your roses, Wicked Bugs delves into the extraordinary powers of many-legged creatures.

With wit, style, and exacting research, Stewart has uncovered the most terrifying and titillating stories of bugs gone wild. It's an A to Z of insect enemies, interspersed with sections that explore bugs with kinky sex lives, creatures lurking in the cupboard, militant ants, and phobias that feed our (sometimes) irrational responses to bugs.

Wicked Bugs is a fascinating mixture of history, science, murder, and intrigue that begins - but doesn't end - in your own backyard.

©2011 Amy Stewart (P)2011 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Stewart amusingly but analytically profiles the baddest bugs around in quick but attention-grabbing snapshots of little creatures that pack a lot of punch." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (304 )
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3.8 (225 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Terry A. Gray 12-06-11

    ever reader

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    "Just a Catalog"

    This is the sort of book just about anyone could cook up after an entomological tour of Wikipedia and then some further--but not too deep--research at a library. It is superficially scientific, at least Latin names are used, but little more than a catalog, with brief venture into pestiferous Ripley's Believe It Or Not gosh awful descriptions of the tortures of insect or arachnid toxins. It might serve as a sort of bar bet reference, but is otherwise is fairly dull.

    The narration is good, but the material to be narrated verges on tedious so it is hard to stay with it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia Houston, TX, United States 11-20-11
    Cynthia Houston, TX, United States 11-20-11
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    "Interesting premise but I was disappointed"

    The title and reviews made this book sound more interesting than it turned out to be. I heard about it on NPR and so purchased it. I was hoping for more interesting stories about how insects have affected history or changed humanity, but it felt more like a dry recital of facts most of the time. I did not finish listening to the book as I grew bored with it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Betty A. Wright Sugar City, ID United States 10-02-11
    Betty A. Wright Sugar City, ID United States 10-02-11 Member Since 2008

    pony rider

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    "Very interesting"

    Wonderful stories and details. I enjoyed learning about these amazing creatures that share the world with us.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tina ALLSTON, MA, United States 07-07-11
    Tina ALLSTON, MA, United States 07-07-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting - would have been better on paper"

    This is a really interesting book about bugs. The narration is good. It reads like an encyclopedia though, so it may have been better in print. I do not regret listening to the entire thing and would recommend it for those who don't have the time to read the print version.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joel D Offenberg 06-28-11 Member Since 2015
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    "Creepy, Crawly, Repetitive"

    Great idea, and it starts out with the interesting and unusual sex lives of various critters...stories about insects and other crawlies (Stewart uses the term "bug" in the loose common term rather than the scientific sense) are fascinating and more than a little creepy, especially when we get to the lifecycle of some of the human parasites and disease vectors.

    My complaint is that each "bug's" narrative is interesting individually but the writing is a bit formulaic and after a while they all blurred together.

    I liked Coleen Marlo's narration, she conveyed Stewart's sense of humor and interest in her subject.

    Overall, I rated it at about 3 1/2 stars; I rounded up to 4.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 06-18-12
    Cynthia Monrovia, California, United States 06-18-12 Member Since 2012

    Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "More Nightmares than Stephen King's Best"
    Would you listen to Wicked Bugs again? Why?

    I'll definitely listen to this book again - so much information was packed into a very short read, I want to make sure I heard everything.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Was it the magots? The worms? The mind-controlling parasites? So hard to choose . . .


    What does Coleen Marlo bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    This book, with the wrong reader, could have been dull, plodding, and full of dreadful mispronounciations. Coleen Marlo is a lively reader, and her ability to pronounce complex Latin names without hesitating is admirable. Definitely the right narrator for this book.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I woke up in the middle of the night with a nightmare that I had bugs in my body. I wouldn't recommend listening to this right before bed.


    Any additional comments?

    I'm planning on ordering "Wicked Plants" by the same author.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Frederick R. Raleigh Templeton, CA United States 08-14-11
    Frederick R. Raleigh Templeton, CA United States 08-14-11 Member Since 2014

    Long time listener - very eclectic mixture of reads. Never bored. Glad I started this way to read books over a decade ago.

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    "The Catchy Title - Watch Out!"

    This books title might throw you off base thinking, as I did, that you would get some historical information about Napoleon's army and the loss to the Russians. What you will get is approximately 10 minutes near the end of the book and that is it. Otherwise the book is a disease lovers delight giving information about the multitude of organisms, insects, protozoa and other disease bearing vectors. In a way it is interesting; yet, written like a text book listing the carrier by genus and species then detailing the: country of origin, disease and the havoc this particular disease causes humans. Other information includes details about cousins of the original offender and their blights - if any.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Atlanta, GA, United States 07-14-11
    Joe Atlanta, GA, United States 07-14-11 Member Since 2012
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    "Bad, Bad."

    After the first sction, this is like having a dictionary read to you. It also seems repetative.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
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