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Killer Bugs

Vibbs and I spent nearly an hour talking about insects as weapons this week.

- Clay pots filled with critters called "Scorpion Bombs" being hurled at ancient Roman armies.

- Zee Germans dumping boxes of Colorado Beetles on Great Britain to attack their potato crops during World War II.

- Japans' notorious Unit 731 unleashing plague-infested fleas on China… AND they were planning to do the same to San Diego in 1945; they called it "Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night”… It had the potential to be one of the most catastrophic attacks on American soil had the war not ended just months before they could enact their plan.

- During a siege of Kaffa, the Tartars catapulted the flea-filled cadavers of their plague-stricken soldiers over the wall… In 1422, Russians used the same tactic at the siege of Carolstein.

- During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong conscripted the Asian giant honeybee, described by tropical entomologists as “the most ferocious stinging insect on earth”… Those shifty bastards carefully relocated massive bee colonies to trails used by the Americans and then attached a small, explosive charge.  When a patrol passed by, the patiently waiting VC set off the blast and the bees attacked the US soldiers.

Christian Hutter. Shutterstock Images.

But it was the ancient Persians who were perhaps the most fucked-up people in history to use insects to inflict pain on their enemies, and they did it through something called scaphism.

The gruesome practice of subjecting a condemned man to "the boats" was given the technical term scaphism (based on the Greek word 'skaphe', meaning a small, flat-bottomed boat).

Here's how it went down:

  1. The victim was initially force-fed milk and honey to induce severe Chaps-like diarrhea. 
  2. Then the poor bastard was stripped and lashed to a skiff (or hollowed-out tree trunk) so that only his head, hands, and feet protruded over the sides.  
  3. Those exposed parts were smeared with honey.
  4. Then he was set adrift on a stagnant pond or simply left in the sun. 

So you are left out there in the middle of a pond, in the hot sun, lashed in between two skiffs like a turtle on its back… All the while you are shitting your brains out in the enclosed chamber.  

On the outside of the vessel, it wasn't long before wasps and other flying insects were attracted to your exposed honey-covered extremities, and excruciating stings and bites were soon to follow.

But the real problems occurred on the inside as thousands of insects drawn to the feces started accumulating within the boat.  Flies would breed in your filth and then begin laying eggs in your anus and increasingly gangrenous flesh. 

Every now and again, your boat would be pulled to shore in order to force feed you more milk and honey… So the cycle of disease attracting shit continued until you would finally succumb to septic shock associated with being infested with maggots.

Which makes scaphism arguably history's worst way to take a report.


Last little bit of entomology for the day, in case you don't listen to the podcast… Nature is scary.

Particularly the Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar which has a natural defense from birds of prey.  It has markings that resemble the eye of a snake and its head swells up to resemble a snake head when irritated… 

The Great Orange Tip Worm has a similar defense…  

Shutterstock Images.

Both scared the fuck out of me, so I felt compelled to share with you.

Nature is fucking wild.