Entomological Warfare in the US: 80 Years of Human and Animal Experimentation

Entomological Warfare in the US
Entomological Warfare in the US

Introduction to Entomological Warfare

Humans have conducted entomological warfare, using insects and other arthropods as part of warfare tactics, in myriad ways over thousands of years, not just to cause crippling pain in enemies, but also to carry lethal pathogens and disrupt agriculture, all in hopes of inflicting widespread suffering, illness, and starvation.

Entomological warfare (EW) is a form of biological warfare in which insects are used to disrupt supply lines through damage to crops, or directly to injure enemy combatants and civilian populations.

Insects are used either as a direct attack or as vectors for the delivery of a biological agent, such as pestilence or cholera.

Defence experts and scientists have insisted the chances for any attacks, particularly a major attack, are low given the enormous challenges in breeding, weaponizing, and disseminating biological agents. However, this statement appears to be untrue. Using insects as bioweapons is a very inexpensive and effective form of warfare. Insects can be used as bioweapons on crops, animals, and humans.

Japan and several other countries were accused of using insecticide warfare during World War II. Japan used fleas in mass quantities as biological weapons against the Chinese during World War II, but the experiment backfired and led to 10,000 biological casualties and 1,700 deaths among Japanese troops.

During the Korean War, the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea accused the United States of using agents of biological warfare against North Korea.

Class III cabinets at the U.S. Biological Warfare Laboratories, Camp Detrick, Maryland (Photo, 1940s)
Class III cabinets at the U.S. Biological Warfare Laboratories, Camp Detrick, Maryland (Photo, 1940s)

Under the 1972 Convention on the Regulations on Bio-Toxic Weapons (BWC), it is considered that using insects for hostile purposes for delivering agents or toxins is contrary to international law.

Modern EWs such as the use of insects for crop destruction are banned under the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction Act of the Geneva Convention.

 Although bioweapons are not used in mass, the authors of the Geneva Protocol considered bioweapons a major emerging threat and included the germ warfare component of the protocol. In response to the horrors of chemical warfare in WWI, international diplomatic efforts were directed towards restricting the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction, that is, biological and chemical weapons.

However, even though Entomological Warfare is banned under the Geneva Convention, many countries still conduct research and have investigated the effectiveness of insects and associated diseases as bioweapons, including the US, which has tested insect-based tactics against US citizens, most notably with Operation Drop Kick, Operation Big Buzz, and Operation Big Itch.

Biological warfare has evolved from crude uses of dead bodies to pollute water supplies, to the development of specialized ammunition used both on the battlefield and covertly. Biological warfare has been used to disrupt and degrade an opponent for centuries. It has been and continues to be, a form of terrorism, which can be used by potentially diverse actors with varying agendas.

Dugway Proving Ground

One of America’s most secretive military zones is Dugway Proving Ground (DPG). A facility that covers almost 800,000 acres of remote territory in the Salt Lake Desert in Utah. Located approximately 85 miles (137 km) southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah and 13 miles (21 km) south of Utah‘s 2,624-square-mile (6,800 km2) Utah Test and Training Range.

Since its establishment in 1942, Dugway Proving Ground has been dedicated to developing and testing chemical and biological weapons as well as radiological, nuclear and defensive programs, all operated by the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command.

Dugway Proving Ground
Dugway Proving Ground

Given its isolated location, Dugway is perfect for testing and evaluation of materials and equipment critical to Department of Defense protection against chemical and biological attacks by adversaries.

During WWII, the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah tested chemical sprays, flamethrowers, biological agents, a variety of antidotes and safety gear, and even lobbed bombs.

The historic Dugway Proving Grounds dispersal testing array was used to perform a series of dispersal tests with simulated chemical or biological agents and study their behaviour.

Some ufologists and extraterrestrial hunters believe that the present missions at the test site are of greater significance, going as far as calling the DPG the new Area 51, in comparison with an aircraft test facility in Nevada, which has been a target of UFO speculation for decades.

Inside the top-secret Dugway proving ground
Inside the top-secret Dugway Proving Ground – Source: The Guardian

In October 1958, the U.S. Army relocated its U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Weapons School to Dugway Proving Ground. Dugway Proving Ground served as the War Department’s purpose in World War II, with an expanded testing program of materials and equipment for the Research and Development Command, Army Chemical Corps (formerly the Chemical Warfare Service).

1944-1953 – Operation Polka Dot

Operation Polka Dot was a series of field test operations conducted between 1944 and 1953 ad Dugway Proving Ground. (Original source)

The operation consisted of filling E133 cluster bombs with simulants of a type of bacteria known as Bacillus atrophaeus. Other organisms involved in the research include B.  Anthracis (the bacterium that causes anthrax), Botulinum toxin, Tularense, dysentery, Newcastle disease virus and Venezuelan Equine encephalomyelitis virus, among others.

The same report also lists Operation Trouble Maker, which studied prophylactic vaccines, toxoids and skin tests.

1948- Project 4-11-02-19 – Bacterium Tularense

The US Army Chemical Corps at Fort Detrick’s laboratories established a project to determine the military usefulness of Bacterium tularense. A Micro-organism that causes Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever and deer-fly fever. The disease occurs naturally in many kinds of animals and is passed along to many by ticks, flies, contaminated water, infected animal meat, or inhalation of infected material.

A man comes down with the sickness one to ten days (most commonly three days) after being infected. The victim is prostrated with chills and fever.

There are two types of tularemia, cutaneous and typhoidal. The latter is much more dangerous, with the mortality rate in untreated cases about 30 per cent. If pneumonia develops, the mortality rate jumps to 40 per cent.

Antibiotics are quite effective in arresting the progress of tularemia infections, but they do not modify the debilitating effects of the disease. This is important because convalescence from the disease is usually slow and may extend for a period of six months to a year.

Troops, therefore, infected with Bacterium tularense could turn into long-term hospital cases, putting a strain on enemy hospital facilities as well as effectively putting soldiers out of action.

The project was finally suspended in 1958.

1950s- Colorado Potato Beetle – Insecticide Warfare or Propaganda?

The War against the Potato Beetle, also known as the Colorado Potato Beetle, has been an ongoing battle in Eastern Europe since its alleged introduction to East Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia by the United States. The beetle is a significant pest of potato crops, causing massive yield losses and economic hardship to local farmers. The potato beetle is a voracious eater that can quickly consume entire potato fields, leaving nothing but bare dirt behind.

A Colorado potato beetle.
A Colorado potato beetle.

During the Cold War, the War against the Potato Beetle was used as a propaganda tool by both the United States and its Eastern European allies to paint the other side in a negative light. On the one hand, the United States accused the Soviet Union of introducing the beetle to Eastern Europe as a form of biological warfare, which was meant to weaken the region’s agricultural production. On the other hand, the Eastern European governments accused the United States of introducing the beetle as a form of biological warfare, meant to hurt the region’s agricultural production.

By the 1950s, the beetle had become a major problem for Eastern European farmers, with reports of crop losses of up to 95%. In response, East German, Polish, and Czechoslovakian governments launched a mass campaign to eradicate the pest.

A Czechoslovak propaganda video denouncing the imperialist beetle – Youtube

In reality, the origin of the beetle is still debated to this day, but the propaganda aspect of the War against the Potato Beetle was used to spread mistrust and animosity between the two sides during the Cold War. The United States used the beetle as an example of Soviet aggression, while the Eastern European governments used it as an example of American aggression. Ultimately, the War against the Potato Beetle was used as a tool to further divide the two sides during the Cold War.

The campaign began with the use of chemical insecticides, which were applied to potato fields in an effort to kill the beetles. However, this tactic was largely unsuccessful due to the beetle’s resistance to the chemicals. The government then developed a biological control program, using predators like the toad bug (Anisotoma sp.) and the ground beetle (Carabus sp.) to hunt and feed on the beetle larvae. This method was more successful, and the beetle population decreased significantly.

In addition to the biological control program, the Eastern European governments also implemented a system of crop rotation to reduce the beetle’s food source, and a system of early harvesting to limit the beetle’s access to new potato crops. These tactics, combined with the application of chemical insecticides, were largely successful in limiting the beetle’s population.

The debate over the origin of the beetle continues to this day. Some believe that the beetle was introduced to Eastern Europe by American forces during the Cold War, while others believe that the beetle was already present in Europe before the American presence. Regardless of its origin, the potato beetle remains a significant problem for Eastern European farmers, and the war against it continues.

Czechoslovak cartoon Potato Beetle
Campaigns began throughout the Eastern Bloc, especially in Czechoslovakia and Poland. This Czechoslovak cartoon shows Truman with his general staff. Three of the soldiers are potato beetle-shaped. The book on the floor reads ‘germ warfare’ and Mein Kampf is on the table.

Interestingly, this was not the first time that the notion of a weaponised potato beetle had been proposed: during both World Wars, France and Germany had seemingly researched and even tested the possibility of the potato beetle as a biological weapon.

1950- Operation Sea-Spray

The US Navy conducted Operation Sea-Spray wherein two types of bacteria, Bacillus globigii and Serratia marcesens, were sprayed along the coast of San Francisco, California. Initially thought to be harmless, it is now known that Bacillus globigii can cause food poisoning and harm people with weak immune systems. Furthermore, 11 individuals were hospitalized due to serious bacterial infections as a result of the San Francisco trials, with Edward Nevin passing away three weeks later.

1954 – Operation Big Itch

Operation Big Itch was a United States military entomological warfare field test using non-infected fleas to determine their range and survival ability as a carrier for a biological agent.

Named with a dash of gallows humour, Operation Big Itch was conducted in the grim landscapes of Dugway Proving Grounds. The objective was to determine whether fleas could be bred, transported, loaded into munitions (they can), and then delivered to the target in numbers sufficient to spread the disease to an enemy. When the cluster bomb reached an altitude of 1,000 or 2,000 feet, bomblets were dropped by parachutes, spreading their vector.

Approximately one-third of the insects (the others were used for load-and-store tests) were packed in E-14 rounds of ammunition and dropped on the Georgia countryside, as the Southern U.S. is a hospitable environment for mosquitoes. When 600 were collected, they were determined to actively consume the blood of humans.

The second objective of the experiment was to determine whether the mosquitoes survived dispersal to search for food on land. The operation was a field trial designed to determine the feasibility of producing, storing, loading onto ammunition, and dispersing yellow fever mosquitoes (although they were not infected for the trial) from aeroplanes.

Operation Big Itch was a success, and early tests of Big Itch showed not only could uninfected fleas survive being dropped from aircraft, but they would also soon latch onto their hosts.

1954- 1973 – Operation Whitecoat

Operation Whitecoat was a medical research project conducted by the United States Army between 1954 and 1973. Its purpose was to study the effects of various biological agents, including those found in tropical diseases, on human volunteers. The operation was conducted at the Army’s Biological Warfare Laboratories at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

The project involved nearly 3,000 volunteer servicemen from the Army, Navy, and Air Force who willingly submitted to being infected with a variety of diseases in order to advance the science of defending against biological warfare. These volunteers, known as “Whitecoats”, were exposed to agents such as Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Q fever, and Sandfly fever. The research was conducted in a controlled environment and the volunteers were closely monitored.

A Consent Statement (1955) for one of the Operation Whitecoat experiments at Fort Detrick
A Consent Statement (1955) for one of the Operation Whitecoat experiments at Fort Detrick

The results of Operation Whitecoat were instrumental in the development of vaccines and treatments for many diseases that had previously been untreatable. It also provided valuable insight into how different biological agents behaved in humans, which was essential for the Army’s biological defence program. The volunteers received medical care and treatment during the course of their service and were given full medical disclosure when the project ended in 1973.

Operation Whitecoat was discontinued in 1973 when the draft for the U.S. military ended and thus no more conscientious objectors were to be conscripted.

1955 – Operation Big Buzz

Much like Operation Big Itch, Operation Big Buzz was also a test field designed to disperse yellow fever mosquitoes from aircraft.

In June 1955, some 330,000 uninfected mosquitoes were airdropped from an aircraft in E14 bombs and dispersed to the ground in the state of Georgia.

1956 – Operation Drop Kick

Perhaps one of the most controversial operations, Operation Drop Kick had several phases.

Between April and November 1956, the US Army Chemical Corps released uninfected mosquitos into a residential area of Savannah, Georgia.

Also in 1956, the Corps released 600,000 from a plane at Avon Park Bombing Range, Florida. Within a day, the mosquitoes had spread a distance of between one and two miles and had bitten many people.

Further tests were also conducted at Avon Park in 1958, showing that mosquitoes could easily be dropped from helicopters, and would quickly disseminate in all directions and enter all types of buildings.

Other experiments with active yellow fever mosquitos were carried out from serum obtained from an infected patient. Subsequently, rhesus monkeys were infected, and Dugway Proving Ground was able to produce 130 million mosquitoes a month.

Arthropods that could attack and destroy crops were also developed, as well as aerosol spraying using tanks fitted in low-flying aircrafts. While most aerosol tests were conducted with inactive agents, one was done with carrying a particular agent that causes Q fever. The results indicated that if humans had been in the area, 99 per cent of them would have been infected.

1956 – Operation May Day

Similar to Operation Big Itch, Operation Big Buzz and Operation Drop Kick, Operation May Day, conducted in 1956, was partly declassified in 1981 and consisted of dispersing yellow fever mosquitoes in an urban area of Savannah, Georgia.

The mosquitoes were allegedly recovered later using traps with dry ice.  

1959- Project BELLWETHER-I

By 1959, 52 entomological field tests had been conducted at Dugway Proving Ground under the codename of Project BELLWETHER-I (original source).

Project Bellwether-I used the female mosquito Aedes aegypti (Yellow Fever Mosquito) to asses the biological effectiveness of laboratory-reared and laboratory-infected arthropods in transmitting diseases to human beings and animals.

The research included guinea pigs and human test subjects under different meteorological conditions using traps to bait the mosquitoes.  It studied the biting activity of mosquitoes and the impacts of insecticide treatments under different variables such as wind speed, temperature, dryness, etc.

1965- Operation Magic Sword

In Operation Magic Sword, conducted in 1965, the U.S. military sought to evaluate the effectiveness of releasing yellow fever mosquitoes carrying biological agents at sea.

The experiment was conducted off the southeastern coast of the United States and yielded results showing that when accompanied by ocean winds, the mosquitoes could travel up to 3.5 miles to shore. Additionally, the operation demonstrated that the mosquitoes could be kept alive for long-distance over-water journeys.

Typhus shaped the course of the first world war on the eastern front, where an epidemic of the insect-borne disease in Serbia served to keep the central powers from invading Russia.
Typhus shaped the course of the first world war on the eastern front, where an epidemic of this insect-borne disease in Serbia served to keep the central powers from invading Russia.

During Operation Magic Sword, the U.S. military also sought to assess the mosquito’s biting habits, as well as the effects of releasing them in a marine environment. Additionally, the experiment was conducted in an effort to gain a better understanding of the potential for using mosquitoes to deliver biological agents in warfare. As a result of the experiment, the U.S. military learned more about the adaptability of mosquitoes and their ability to survive in marine environments.

1962-1973 – Project 112

Project 112 was a medical research project conducted by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) during the 1960s and early 1970s and authorized by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and other branches of the US armed services and intelligence including the CIA.  The aim of the project was to develop, test, and evaluate biological and chemical weapons. The project involved exposing military personnel and civilian populations to various agents and chemicals, including nerve agents, hallucinogens, and psychochemicals.

Project 112 was a controversial and secretive program, conducted without the knowledge or consent of those exposed to the agents. The DoD did not publicly acknowledge the project or the associated risks until 1975. In the decades since, the program has been subject to criticism and scrutiny, with critics citing ethical issues associated with the lack of informed consent.

Project 112 was designed to test the effectiveness of chemical and biological agents in a variety of scenarios, including in aircraft, ships, and ground forces. The project involved exposing military personnel and civilian populations to various agents and chemicals, including nerve agents, hallucinogens, and psychochemicals. In addition, the project also sought to assess the vulnerability of various areas to biological and chemical attacks.

The program was conducted primarily in the United States, with some testing taking place in Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and several other countries. The program was highly secretive and kept largely out of the public eye. Participants were not informed of the risks associated with the testing, and many have since reported illnesses and even death resulting from their involvement in the project.

In 1975, the DoD finally acknowledged the existence of Project 112, though it did not share full details of the project until the mid-2000s. Since then, the project has been subject to much criticism, with critics citing ethical concerns related to the lack of informed consent given to participants. In addition, those who were exposed to the agents have reported illnesses and even death, leading to lawsuits and investigations into the program.

1969- Six Biological Weapons

The United States has developed and stockpiled a variety of biological weapons agents since the late 1960s. The six most prominent agents known to have been developed at the time were anthrax, tularemia, brucellosis, Q-fever, Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis virus, and botulism.

Anthrax is a contagious, often fatal, bacterial infection that can be spread through contact with infected animals or through inhalation of the spores.

Tularemia is a bacterial disease that can be spread through contact with contaminated animals, or by handling contaminated animal carcasses.

Brucellosis is a bacterial infection most commonly transmitted to humans from infected animals and can cause fever, fatigue, and joint pain.

Q-fever is a bacterial infection spread through inhalation of contaminated dust particles and contact with infected animals.

Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis virus is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause neurological symptoms in humans, including fever, headache, and confusion.

Finally, botulism is a bacterial infection that can cause paralysis and even death if left untreated.

Scourge of Dioxin Contamination in the Vietnam War
Scourge of Dioxin Contamination in the Vietnam War

1984 – Rajneeshee Bioterror Attack

The Rajneeshee bioterror attack was a 1984 bioterrorism attack in the United States. On September 10, 1984, the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh attempted to influence the results of an election in Wasco County, Oregon, by deliberately infecting 751 individuals with Salmonella enterica Typhimurium.

The attack was carried out under instructions from the Rajneeshee leader, Ma Anand Sheela. The attack resulted in 45 people being hospitalized and was one of the first known cases of an intentional bioterror attack in the United States.

1989 – California Medfly Attack

The California Medfly attack was a major infestation of Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly) in California in 1989. It was the largest medfly infestation in the United States in the 20th century. The infestation began in the summer of 1989 and lasted until the end of the year, resulting in the spraying of over 3 million acres of produce with pesticides, including over 1 million acres of residential areas.

The infestation resulted in over $100 million in agricultural losses and caused a great deal of public outcry over the use of pesticides. It also prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to launch the Mediterranean Fruit Fly Eradication Program (Medfly Program) in 1992. The program involved using the sterile insect technique, a form of biological control, to eradicate the infestation. The program was successful, and the medfly infestation was eradicated by 1997.

A person or group calling itself “The Breeders” took responsibility for the bioterrorist attack in a two-page letter sent to the Los Angeles Times and Fresno Bee.

1997-2001 – Project Jefferson

Project Jefferson was a covert U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) designed to reproduce a strain of genetically modified anthrax bacterium that had been isolated by Russian scientists during the 1990s, in order to determine whether or not the agent was resistant to the current licensed U.S. anthrax vaccine.

The program’s legal status under the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) was highly disputed.

1997-2000 – Project Clear Vision

Project Clear Vision, a project by Battelle Memorial Institute, under contract to the CIA, to reconstruct and test a Soviet-designed biological bomblet so as to assess its dissemination characteristics.

Project Clear Vision was conducted between 1997 and 20001 during the Clinton Administration, but its existence was revealed by the New York Times in August 2001 during the Bush Administration.

They argued that the recreation of the Soviet bomblet under Project Clear Vision violated the Article I prohibition on the development, production, stockpiling, acquisition, or retention of “weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use [biological] agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.”

 The critics reasoned that, whereas the definition of biological agents and toxins in the first part of Article I is purpose-based and entails a judgment of intent, the ban on munitions and delivery systems in the second part is unconditional so as to prevent BWC violators from acquiring all of the components of a biological weapon under the cover of defensive research and development and making any judgment of compliance impossible.

1999-2000 – Project Bacchus

Project Bacchus, was an effort by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a unit of the Defense Department, to construct a mock biowarfare production facility to assess the feasibility of mass-producing anthrax bacterial stimulant with off-the-shelf equipment.

The aim of the project was to investigate whether potential terrorists could make anthrax and remain undetected. The participating scientists were able to make about 1 kilogram (2.20 lb) of anthrax during the two-year simulation.

Project Bacchus and its sister projects, Clear Vision and Jefferson, only came to light when then they were discovered in September 2001 by New York Time reporters.

2001- Operation Dark Winter

Operation Dark Winter was a senior-level bio-terrorist attack simulation exercise conducted in June 2001 by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies and the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security. It was designed to explore the possible consequences of a major biological attack on the United States.

The simulation was based on the scenario of a fictitious smallpox pandemic, which is highly contagious and has a mortality rate of 30%. This scenario was chosen because smallpox is relatively easy to disperse and the virus is highly contagious, making it an ideal agent for a terrorist attack.

The simulation was designed to explore the possible consequences of a major biological attack on the United States, including the medical and public health response, the political and diplomatic response, and the economic and social consequences. The exercise was set in the fictional state of Arkansaw, which is similar in size and population to the state of Arkansas.

The simulation was conducted over a three-day period, with more than 30 participants representing various government agencies, including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, State, and Justice. Other participants included the FBI, FEMA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the White House.

The goal of Operation Dark Winter was to explore the capacity of the US government to respond to a biological attack and identify possible gaps in the US government’s preparedness for such an event. During the simulation, participants were presented with various scenarios, such as the spread of the virus to other countries, the need to ration medical resources, and the political and social consequences of the attack.

Throughout the exercise, participants were asked to make decisions in response to the scenarios, and the results of these decisions were tracked to provide an indication of how the US government would respond to a real-world biological attack.

The results of the simulation were striking. It highlighted the difficulties in responding to such an attack, such as the lack of information and understanding of the virus and the challenges associated with containing its spread. It also showed how quickly the situation could escalate and the difficulties in managing the medical, political, and social consequences of the attack.

The results of Operation Dark Winter showed that the US government was ill-prepared to respond to a major biological attack. It highlighted the importance of improved planning, communication, and coordination among government agencies, as well as the need for better public health and medical preparedness.

The simulation also underscored the need for improved international cooperation and coordination in the event of a global pandemic, as well as the need for improved public education and awareness about the threat of bioterrorism.

Overall, Operation Dark Winter was an effective exercise that highlighted the challenges and complexities of responding to a major biological attack. The simulation showed that the US government needs to be better prepared and equipped to respond to such an event, and it provided important insights into how the government should respond in the event of a real-world biological attack.

2001 – Anthrax Attacks

The 2001 Anthrax Attacks (original source), also known as Amerithrax, was a series of letters containing anthrax spores sent through the mail various locations in the United States. The letters, sent between September 18 and October 9, 2001, were addressed to two senators, several news media offices, and various other public locations. The attacks resulted in five deaths, 17 illnesses and a nationwide scare.

The letters that were sent had a handwritten note that read “09-11-01, THIS IS NEXT. TAKE PENACILIN [sic] NOW. DEATH TO AMERICA. DEATH TO ISRAEL. ALLAH IS GREAT.” The spores of the bacterium Bacillus anthracis were found inside the letters, causing the formation of anthrax lesions in the victims.

The New York Post and NBC News letter
The New York Post and NBC News letter
The second note was addressed to Senators Daschle and Leahy
The second note was addressed to Senators Daschle and Leahy

Originally the attacks were blamed on Al-Qaeda, Iraq, Osama Bin Laden and Syria.

The FBI launched an investigation into the attacks, code-named Amerithrax, which would become one of the largest and most complex investigations in the agency’s history. After a lengthy investigation, the FBI concluded that the attacks were perpetrated by Bruce E. Ivins, a scientist at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Ivins committed suicide on July 29, 2008, before the FBI had a chance to indict him.

The FBI investigation found that Ivins had the means, motive, and opportunity to carry out the attacks, and had been in possession of the various strains of anthrax used in the letters. The investigation also revealed that Ivins had a history of emotional instability and a grudge against the United States government.

Bruce Edwards Ivins in 2003.
Bruce Edwards Ivins in 2003

The 2001 Anthrax Attacks had a lasting impact on the nation. The attacks, which occurred shortly after the September 11 attacks, heightened the sense of fear and paranoia in the United States. The FBI’s investigation into the attacks provided insight into bioterrorism and led to the development of new protocols for investigating and detecting such attacks. It also led to increased security measures at postal facilities and heightened public awareness of the potential for bioterrorism.

In a surprising turn of events, the FBI and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) both gave permission to destroy the Iowa anthrax archive, which greatly hampered investigations with crucial evidence being destroyed.

2003 – Ricin Letters

In 2003, two letters containing ricin were sent to the White House and the Senate. The letters were sent by the same anonymous sender and contained a powdery substance that was later identified as ricin, a highly toxic and potentially deadly poison. The first letter was sent to the White House on February 2 and the second was sent to the Senate on February 4.

An image of the envelope addressed to the White House which was discovered on November 6, 2003 and contained the deadly poison ricin.
An image of the envelope addressed to the White House was discovered on November 6, 2003, and contained the deadly poison ricin.

Both letters contained a threatening message and a warning that the sender had created more ricin and would use it if the recipient did not comply with the sender’s demands. The letters were intercepted and tested, confirming the presence of ricin and prompting a nationwide investigation.

The 2003 ricin letters served as a reminder of the potential danger posed by biological weapons and the importance of taking all threats seriously. This incident also highlighted the need for greater security measures when handling suspicious mail, as well as increased public awareness of the potential consequences of using biological toxins.

2005-2015 – Army Shipped Live Anthrax

For a decade, The US Army shipped live anthrax samples to 183 labs in nine different states and seven foreign countries: Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Italy and Germany.

The shipments occurred between 2005 and 2015 and were only discovered after an investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC’s investigation found that the Army had failed to properly inactivate the anthrax samples before they were sent. As a result, there is a risk that the recipients of the samples may have been exposed to live anthrax spores.

The US Army has since recalled all of the samples that were sent. The Pentagon has promised to investigate the matter further and to take steps to ensure that this type of incident does not occur again. They have also stated that they are working with the affected labs to assess any potential risks posed by the live anthrax samples.

2013 – April Ricin Letters

In April 2013, a series of letters containing ricin poison were sent to President Barack Obama and other government officials. The letters had been postmarked from Memphis, Tennessee, and the FBI subsequently launched an investigation into the incident.

In May 2013, authorities arrested Paul Kevin Curtis, a Mississippi man, in connection with the ricin-laced letters. After further investigation, the FBI determined that Curtis had been falsely accused and was not responsible for the letters.

The investigation then shifted to another Mississippi man, James Everett Dutschke, who was arrested in April 2013 for sending the ricin-laced letters. Dutschke had allegedly used the same postmark as the original letters in an attempt to frame Curtis for the crime. He was later convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

2013 – May Ricin Letters

Ricin-laced letters were sent in May 2013 to the Obama White House, a New York City mayor’s office and various other locations.

The letters were sent by Shannon Richardson, a Texas woman who claimed to be the victim of the attack. She was later convicted of sending the letters, which contained ricin, a highly toxic substance derived from castor beans, to President Obama and other officials. Richardson was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the crime.

2016 – Insect Allies

The Insect Allies program is a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) initiative aimed at developing a new approach to protect crops from the impacts of climate change, pests, and disease.

The technology developed under the program would use insects as a delivery system for protective treatments.

“Insect Allies aims to use insects such as aphids or whiteflies to infect crops with tailormade viruses that can deliver certain genes to mature plants; it’s essentially gene therapy for crops.”

Insecticide Warfare
Insecticide Warfare

Allegedly, the technology would enable farmers to respond quickly to threats in their environment, reducing the need for chemical pesticides and providing a potential solution to the challenge of feeding the world’s growing population.

However, scientists are extremely concerned that the project could be used to deliver a new class of biological weapons and the technology could be used for much more harmful means.

Potentially, the viruses being introduced could do harm instead of good, as the bugs could be used to disperse agents preventing seeds from growing.

2020-2022- Over 1 Billion Genetically-Engineered Mosquitoes Released

Residents of Islamorada (Florida Keys), saw the release of 500 million genetically engineered mosquitoes as part of a ‘mosquito control’ program carried out by British Biotech company Oxitec and FKMCD (Florida Keys Mosquito Control District).

Using the Yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti, the government was attempting to target diseases such as Zika, Yellow Fever, Dengue and Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

According to residents who received email responses from the CDC: ‘CDC is not formally involved in any evaluation at this time. CDC is not overseeing the trial, and CDC does not plan to conduct any health assessments before, during, or after the trials.’

According to EPA’s Experimental Use Permit: ‘Oxitec will release into the environment male mosquitoes genetically modified to carry a protein that will inhibit the survival of their female offspring when they mate with wild female mosquitoes. The male offspring will survive to become fully functional adults with the same genetic modification, providing multi-generational effectiveness that could ultimately lead to a reduction in Aedes aegypti mosquito populations in the release areas.’

Female mosquitoes suck blood to produce eggs and offspring, but they have to mate with a male first. This new group should produce female larvae that die off before they reach adulthood.   The genetically-modified males carry a very specific protein that is designed to ensure that no female offspring live long enough to reproduce themselves.

However, in “a previous experiment conducted from 2013 to 2015, Oxitec released mosquitoes in Brazil that carried an earlier engineered gene, OX513A, and eventually released those with OX5034 as well. While the company declared the release a success, scientists unaffiliated with Oxitec from Yale and a handful of Brazilian institutions published research in the journal Nature Scientific Reports claiming some of the mosquitoes had mated, produced viable offspring, and ultimately created a new genetic hybrid population capable of surviving in the wild.” – Futurism

The journal has since slapped an Expression of Concern over some of its findings that still remains unaddressed.

The “male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are perfectly capable of spreading disease on their own, even if they don’t bite humans. Male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can infect or be infected by females when they mate, according to a study from 2017. Releasing millions of them at a time, then, might inadvertently increase the prevalence of dangerous diseases in the area and make it more likely that any surviving wild females are carrying a dangerous virus in their blood.” Futurism

"Stealth fly", an illustration provided by scientists to warn about a research program that they say could help weaponize insects. -STEALTH FLY, DYLAN EGON
“Stealth fly”, an illustration provided by scientists to warn about research programs that they say could help weaponize insects. -STEALTH FLY, DYLAN EGON

What Next?

Research into genetically modified organisms continues to thrive and expand. From cockroaches to wasps, the list is forever growing. More often than not, this type of research is simply justified as a way of spending grants, or simply, ‘because we can’. But perhaps we should be asking ourselves if we should.

There are a lot of moral and ethical questions to consider. If we trick mosquitos into delivering vaccines to humans, should we do it, even if it goes against the will of some people and against the International Humanitarian Law of Informed Consent?

Currently, we cannot foresee the long-term effects of vaccines delivered by this method, only short-term, or if any current or future genetic mutation in the organisms will cause a chain reaction leading to larger complications, and overall, much bigger damage in the population. Whether it’s animals, humans, or both.  

What happens when random mutations occur and organisms become resistant to the diseases and are able to spread them even further, infecting millions in the process, or devastating crops?

But most importantly perhaps, is just how easy it is for governments, shadow agents and even mentally ill individuals with basic knowledge of chemistry to cause havoc by releasing bio-agents into the wild.

The United States continues its biological research through USAMRIID, Dugway Proving Point, and many other military and corporate facilities.

But the US is not alone in its research of biological and entomological warfare. How many other countries have the same capabilities?

My personal guess would be about the same 50 or so countries worldwide capable of Weather Modification.

We need to find a diplomatic way to deal with entomological warfare. A set of guidelines and specifications enforced by a regulatory body that every country approves of and signs before we reach a point of no return.

Further Reading

If you are interested in the topic of Entomological and Biological Warfare, the following list of resources is a must-read. They are not included in the sources linked above.

3 thoughts on “Entomological Warfare in the US: 80 Years of Human and Animal Experimentation

  1. There are many moral and ethical issues to consider.But perhaps more importantly, how easy it is for governments, shadowy agents, and even mentally ill people with basic knowledge of chemistry to wreak havoc by releasing bioagents into nature.

  2. This insect war is really interesting. I did not know these strategies, epidemics, espionage methods, and ways to spread diseases. I hope that this technology will not be developed in the future… Indeed, this scientific field is frightening, and it is not the fault of insects. These are our mistakes, we humans. We are responsible for the corruption of nature and the killing of man.

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