The Truth: You may have been attacked by a six-legged soldier, but you’re fine. Insects of War are out there and it is only a matter of time before they are armed and deployed. Insects used to attack the enemy is called Entomological warfare. The concept has existed for centuries and research and development have continued into the modern era.
In 1955, the military dropped 330,000 yellow fever mosquitoes from an aircraft over Georgia. The campaign was called Operation Big Buzz, and the mosquitoes buzzed their way to residential areas. In 1956, Operation Drop Kick dropped 600,000 more mosquitoes over an Air Force base in Florida.
In both cases, the mosquitoes did not carry any disease. They were test weapons, part of the military’s entomological warfare team, which studied the bugs' ability to disperse and attack. Results found that the six-legged soldiers successfully feasted on humans and guinea pigs placed near the drop area.
In 1954, Operation Big Itch dropped 300,000 rat fleas in the Western Utah Desert. The military wanted to test if fleas could effectively carry and transmit disease. During one test, a bug-bomb failed to drop, cracking open inside the plane. The fleas swarmed the cabin, biting everybody aboard.
At the time, the military planned to build an insect farm, a facility that could produce 100 million infected mosquitoes per month. Multiple Soviet cities were marked with buggy bull's eyes.
The U.S. engaged in at least two other EW testing programs, Operation Drop Kick and Operation May Day. A 1981 Army report outlined these tests as well as multiple cost-associated issues that occurred with EW. The report is partially declassified — some information is blacked out, including everything concerning "Drop Kick" — and included "cost per death" calculations. The cost per death, according to the report, for a vector-borne biological agent achieving a 50% mortality rate in an attack on a city was $0.29 in 1976 dollars. Such an attack was estimated to result in 625,000 deaths. How much is your life worth?
The United States has also applied entomological warfare research and tactics in non-combat situations. In 1990 the U.S. funded a $6.5 million program designed to research, breed and drop caterpillars. The caterpillars were to be dropped in Peru on coca fields as part of the American War on Drugs. As recently as 2002, U.S. entomological anti-drug efforts at Fort Detrick were focused on finding an insect vector for a virus that affects the opium.
The Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BWC) of 1972 does not specifically mention insect vectors in its text. The language of the treaty, however, does cover vectors. Article I bans "Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict." It would appear, due to the text of the BWC, that insect vectors as an aspect of entomological warfare are covered and outlawed by the Convention. The issue is less clear when warfare with uninfected insects against crops is considered.
How long will it be before the Insects of War are turned on us? What will be the cost of death in 2013?