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Editorial 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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

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  • 3.5 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Not uninteresting yet hardly compelling

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

No. It would be better to get the book. Listening to short sections on different bugs one after another gets rather tiresome. The information however is not without value.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

it would have had to be a completely different book, not a compendium of different insects.

Did Wicked Bugs inspire you to do anything?

Yes, pay more attention to bugs.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • christine
  • Marlton, NJ, United States
  • 07-15-12

I have a new love for spiders!

Where does Wicked Bugs rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I love books like this. Each chapter gives you knowledge on a special thing. In this case various bugs. If you are spooked easily and do not like bugs in general this is not the book for you. If you can take stories about bugs though it is great. Thought you knew alot about some bugs you better read this book. The cockroach chapter was amazing.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The cockroaches.

What about Coleen Marlo’s performance did you like?

I enjoyed her narration.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes. This is the type of book I love.

Any additional comments?

Read it.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fun for the bug enthusiast!

Where does Wicked Bugs rank among all the audiobooks you???ve listened to so far?

This book is well above average as an audiobook. Most of the bugs stories presented are interesting. Remember, though, that this book is more a reference than a tale.

What other book might you compare Wicked Bugs to and why?

It is similar to The Poisoner's Handbook as both cover many topics. The authors make efforts to include entertaining anecdotes throughout the books.

Have you listened to any of Coleen Marlo???s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Coleen Marlo also narrates The Poisoner's Handbook. Her narration is remarkably expressive considering that she could just drone out descriptions. She did a really good job.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

No one moment, but I did appreciate descriptions that included medical comments.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

"good" only for insect enthusiasts

I am a long time audible user. I was looking forward to much more from this title. Since I have an interest in entomology, it serves as a distraction. But for the regular listener, I think they will get bored fairly quickly between the interesting tidbits of historical excitement offered. I seriously thought that the narration was by a digitized computer voice when I first hear it--very monotone. The voice would probably be okay for a PBS documentary which used it only in snippets, but does not add anything to a full length book.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • bracken
  • mocksville, nc, United States
  • 12-13-11

Another great Amy Stewart book!!

Very good book. A close second to my favorite Amy Stewart book, "Wicked Plants". Coleen Marlo does her usual awesome job of keeping my attention...and giggling to myself. Very interesting, entertaining and informative.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

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.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Cynthia
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 11-20-11

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.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Very interesting

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

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

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