Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wicked Plants and Wicked Bugs

Have you heard about the man who wanted to commit suicide by Black Widow spider? He mail-ordered a Black Widow that was guarenteed to provide a fatal injury. It didn't quite work and he had to resort to other poisons.
I heard this tale last night as I had the pleasure of meeting author Amy Stewart and hearing her talk about her new book "Wicked Bugs."
She had come to a Pasadena, CA, bookstore and was only a 15 minute walk from my work, so I had to go. Actually, there was no need to twist my arm, since I had enjoyed her previous book "Wicked Plants" quit a lot.

Of these wicked living things, plants and bugs, Ms. Stewart  has concluded that we are not afraid enough of plants, and we are overly afraid of bugs.

Regarding plant materials, she says many people will eat anything if told it’s “all natural” -but hey, cyanide is all natural, strychnine is all natural, and they are poisonous.

She was kind enough to hand out bugs encased in acrylic so we could all get a close look. The bugs were obtained through The God of Insects. Yes, that is actually what he is called.

Hairy legs like this do give me the creeps:

There were 2 collections like this passed around, but I didn't get a look at the other one:

It was interesting to see how big a bed bug is (its that speck to the left of the cockroach. So they are visible to the naked eye).

Amy spoke for about 75 minutes, telling stories of the bugs she had passed around.  Stories about the only Med Fly ever found in Miami. There was a bit of a panic and it was specially flown to Washington to be investigated to see if it was pregnant. (It wasn't).  And about the chigoe flea that burrow into people's toenails and lay eggs. Some men have actually cut their toes off because of the chigoe flea.

She told us about the Puss Caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis), describing it as "like a little persian cat". I guess it does resemble one, a little. Very furry. But it stiiiings like a you-know-what.

Puss caterpillar. (Weird, ain't it?)
 We learned that Japanese Beetles (found on the east coast) have an adverse reaction to Pelargoniums (geraniums), so pesticides are being developed using that. We learned that brass beds helped reduce bed bug populations since the beds don't provide as many hiding places as a wooden bed does- and that the bed bugs are attracted to you by your carbon dioxide. And we learned to be on the alert for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, which is developing into a big problem- but hasn't appeared here on the west coast. Yet.

Later, Amy Stewart signed the books we bought. 

 These are all her other books

Now I have a secret to tell you. I must whisper it, so come close. Ok, ready?
Pssst! Look for information on a wicked book giveaway, coming soon to a blog near you!


  1. Sounds like a great time. I love weird bugs!! I have quite a large collection of native Oregon specimens from my time in 4H entomology as a kid.

  2. @Kara: That sure beats anything I've saved from my childhood. By the way, I'm taking your skull scarf to wear up there in Oregon at the West Coast Haunters Convention this weekend. We leave tommorow- might you be going? It's in Salem.

  3. This was fascinating ~ Thanks for sharing this trivia! I've really been meaning to read her plant book, and didn't even know that she had a bug book! I will definitely be looking for that giveaway. ;)

  4. I have so been wanting these books! And now after reading your post, I want them even more. :0)
    Anxiously awaiting the giveaway info! :0)

  5. This is soooo cool. Thank you for my gift - you are the best. Great to meet you. Love meeting my blog friends!!


  6. Blogspot had a glitch several days ago and as a result some comments and even some blog posts were deleted. As I recall, Gone Feral left a comment here, and I replied. Both comments were deleted during the glitch. Just didn't want anybody to think I deleted their comment on purpose- I really do appreciate it when people take the time to comment.

  7. Oh, I need those books! Puss caterpillar huh? We grew up calling those Tree Asps, and they are terrible if you get stung!

  8. @stonemaven: Please don't say you grew up anywhere near where I live!


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