WICKED BUGS by Amy Stewart


The Louse that Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects
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An illustrated compendium of facts about bugs behaving badly.

Journalist Stewart (Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities, 2009, etc.), who blogs mainly on subjects of interest to gardeners, turns her focus to the evil that our fellow living things do to us and to each other. The book is not a comprehensive field guide but a smorgasbord of facts—ranging from horrible, painful or otherwise discomfiting—about bugs. Her subjects, beautifully illustrated by Morrow-Cribbs’ plentiful etchings, include well-known evil-doers like cockroaches, tent caterpillars, bed bugs and deer ticks, but also stranger critters. For example: the bullet ant of South America, whose bite is described as feeling like a gunshot; the chigoe flea, which does some very unpleasant business under human toenails; and the Formosan subterranean termite, which, plausibly, caused more damage to New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina than wind and water. Stewart’s uncovers some eye-opening facts: Some of the bugs included here are not as bad as their reputations would have us believe: Two spiders, the black widow and brown recluse, for example, may have nasty bites, but they’re deadlier to each other than they are to humans. On the other hand, earthworms, about which Stewart has glowingly written before, are not always the little earth angels they appear to be, especially in the forests of Minnesota where they behave more like an invading foreign species than a native. (In fact, most American earthworms are descendants of a European species.) Stewart’s prose is simple and to the point. She lets the little horrors she describes work in the reader’s imagination without any hyperbolic help from her.

Guaranteed to cause sympathy itching and other discomfort.



Pub Date: May 3rd, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-56512-960-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2011

Kirkus Interview
Amy Stewart
September 8, 2015

In her first novel Girl Waits With Gun, Amy Stewart, who’s well-known for her nonfiction, crafts a solid, absorbing novel based on real-life events—though they’re unusual enough to seem invented. Constance Kopp and her sisters, Norma and Fleurette, are driving into Paterson, New Jersey, on a summer day in 1914 when a motor car rams them, splintering their buggy and mildly injuring all three women and their horse. Drunken lout Henry Kaufman thinks that owning a local silk manufacturer entitles him to ignore Constance’s reasonable request that he pay for the damages, but he’s misjudged his opponent. As Constance’s first-person narrative unfolds, we see that she’s a bold woman unafraid to defy convention, determined to see justice done and to protect her family. “More adventures involving gutsy Constance, quietly determined Sheriff Heath, and a lively cast of supporting characters would be most welcome,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. View video >


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