Wicked Bugs: Insectophobes need not apply

wicked bugs reviewAs I lie swatting the autumnal flies that I do detest, I am again insanely grateful that all branches of my family tree converged as they did in order for me to be a New Zealander. This is a recurring moment of gratitude, but never more so than having finished reading Amy Stewart’s Wicked Bugs. In this country I can live a laissez-faire existence safe in the knowledge that there is no insect living here that will cause the horrendous pain, harrowing disease, insane mental episodes or simply disgusting infestations described in this book. I feel truly blessed.
Comedy, drama, medical mystery, documentary, horror show all in a 250-page hardcover. This is not a pleasant read. This is not a good idea for readers with romantic fiction proclivities or delicate sensibilities. Insectophobes need not apply. Arachnophobes and acarophobes (those who fear itching or insects that cause itching) should also stay the hell away – but you knew that already didn’t you?
For those that like great stories – this book is a fantastic read. FAS-CIN-AT-ING.
The tales are short and snappy, somewhat trivial but perverse and charming. That description might also fit some of the characters, minus the trivial and charming, of course. While one little ant may seem harmless, imagine them en masse–20 million of them marching straight through African villages and homes devouring small creatures and rats and snakes in their path. Or the bullet ant with a bite of “Pure, intense and brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.” Thank goodness Justin Schmidt really nailed the descriptions on his Schmidt Sting Pain Index so you don’t feel the need to be experiential.
I am mortified by the Asian giant hornet, guinea worms and chigoe fleas are the stuff of nightmares. And I can’t help but be in horrified awe of the Formosan subterranean termite devouring New Orleans. There is stuff in here that will mess with your head – the mechanics of the bombardier beetle, aphids that give birth to more aphids that are already pregnant with more aphids (!!!), and grasshoppers that get stressed out and become a swarm of locusts. It’s all part of the great gruesomely true storybook of our natural world. No cute and cuddlies here.
And remember to have a stiff drink ready as you embark on the extraordinarily scarifying last chapter — Zombies. Not only should this chapter make you question everything you know about life on earth but should inspire a few good sci-fi film scripts. Forewarned is forearmed. I for one shall not be welcoming our insect overlords.
Somebody needs to make this into a TV series quick. Actually, maybe not… the sight of swarming millipedes or of corpse-devouring Staphylinidae Rove beetles may be a bit too much to handle. I’m just going to go hang out under my duvet and cancel my dream-tickets to exotic locales. New Zealand is nice.
Go on, I dare ya. Go read the book.