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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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bunch of little articles

This is filled with lots of interesting and disturbing things about bugs. As I listen to it, I started getting itchy and stingy feelings. Insects are so different from us and live so different from us, it is like reading scary SCI Fi.

I think the book would have been better if she would have left out some bugs and spent more time with the more interesting bugs. This book is like a warm up band, it leaves you wanting more, unfortunately there is nothing to follow. The narrator sounds like she is speed reading, I don't know if that is her style or that is because of the way the book is written. Sometimes I got confused on when we had moved on to another bug or when we were going through the relatives of the last bug. Now I am going to look and see if there is an author who writes more in depth on the subject.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul
  • HARRISBURG, PA, United States
  • 05-28-11

fascinating and creepy

This book was fascinating and well narrated. Lots of information on bugs and their habits and the diseases they carry. I started this book during a power outage due to severe thunderstorms. Quite creepy.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul
  • Pitman, NJ, United States
  • 07-24-11

Too Many Bugs not Enough History

Though the introduction claims this book is NOT a reference guide or to be used as one, that is how it is written and how it reads. It reads like an arbitrarily put together reference guide on "bugs," (in the broad sense), written by a non-scientist/non-doctor.
The book is long and gives a survey of hundreds of "bugs," to the point where they blend together and get confusing. As one reviewer said it would be better on paper.
As a result the individual entries/chapters are short and often contain only basic information.
From the title "The Louse that Conquered Napoleon." I was expecting detailed and interesting histories highlighting 10 or 20 bugs, and how they have changed human history.
Instead the chapter on the louse was only a few minutes long and simply said that Napoleon's army may have been weakened by Louse and the diseases they carried, so that they were overcome easily by the Russian winter. Then she moves on to another bug.
The narration was great! And the information was interesting if a little repetitive, so I give it two stars for that. But in general this book is a short bug encyclopedia written by someone who professes not to be qualified for such an endeavor and so it is not worth it.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Tick, tick tick, like The Tell Tale Heart by Poe.

Would you consider the audio edition of Wicked Bugs to be better than the print version?

Easier to understand.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The ticking is the Death Watch Beetle that taps on the rafters looking for a mate.
The only character is the narrator and she is very good. She has a precise voice that is soothing and easily understood. That is what is needed for this book This book is a compenduim of many of the wicked bugs known and their habits. It is wonderful to listen to but you might not want to leave the house, much less travel too far. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Elizabeth
  • Bellevue, WA, United States
  • 06-10-12

Don't bother

This might be better as an actual book rather than an audio book. What captured me in the title was "the louse that conquered Napoleon's Army," and I was thinking there would be good and quirky info about that. Well, not really. Each chapter gives technical info on some kinds of bug, and there is a story to go with each one, but the scientific info far outweighs the quirky info. I can imagine reading this book in print and being able to skim through the scientific info to get to the quirky stuff, and getting through it all during a short trip to Starbucks. Sadly, in an audio, there is no skimming, or at least it's very difficult. Also, the chapters on the audio did not match up with actual chapters, so skipping ahead to the next chapter didn't work. I'm sorry I spent a credit on this. It was definitely not worth it.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Kim
  • Spokane, WA, United States
  • 11-07-13

Not enough....

I find the subject matter of this book fascinating and was looking forward to a good creepy bug book to haunt me for a bit. Unfortunately, it missed the mark two ways - 1) Not enough scientific detail - the descriptions of the insects and their behaviors were too brief. Fewer insects with more detail on each would've been better. 2) Not enough anecdotal or cultural references to make listening fun for more than a couple of hours. If there had been more "fun" stuff, I wouldn't have noticed the lack of educational content.

Although I was disappointed, I'm giving this selection 3 stars overall because I did enjoy sections of it, and it kept me interested enough to listen all the way through.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Better To Read This One

I don't know if the original book contains illustrations, but it's not a book well suited to audio. I give the reader credit for pronunciation of some challenging words, but it's awkward trying to follow what's basically a list of interesting (if not exactly scientifcally presented) factoids in this format.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Abigail
  • arlington, VA, United States
  • 09-07-11

Interesting but my skin kept crawling.

This is an entertaining book, though she picked many bugs common to the more sciencey TV channels so I knew some of this already. I like bugs, so I was surprised how my skin still crawled at some of the descriptions though in my head I wasnt grossed out at all. People with weaker constitutions towards creepy crawlies should probably stay away from this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Bad, Bad.

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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All fluff no meat

I kept waiting for the 'meat' in this book -- it is not in depth enough and written more as a coffee table book -- also the author should hire a better reader for her material.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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