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Strange but true: Giant Asian honeybees were used as weapon in Vietnam conflict

Oklahoman Published: March 31, 2009
Giant Asian honeybees were used as weapon in Vietnam conflict

Q: Which have been perhaps the fiercest six-legged soldiers in the history of warfare?

A: In Rudyard Kipling’s "Second Jungle Book,” the hero enlists the aid of a colony of bellicose bees to beat back a pack of wild dogs, says Jeffrey Lockwood in "Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War.” The creature Kipling may have had in mind is the giant honeybee of Asia, or "Apis dorsata,” described as "the most ferocious and deadly stinging insect on Earth.” These bees are not only larger but attack in huge numbers (a colony comb can be 10 feet across) and will pursue an intruder 100 yards or more.

During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong are said to have carefully relocated colonies of these bees to enemy trails, then attached a fire cracker to the comb. "When a patrol passed within striking range, a patiently waiting VC would set off the charge. The infuriated insects delivered painful stings and drove the soldiers into dangerous disarray.” The North Vietnamese reportedly trained their insect conscripts to attack anyone in an American uniform, a not implausible tactic as bees are capable of associative learning, such as relating particular colors and shapes to rich sources of nectar.