“Wartime export”: Colorado potato beetle

by Feast of Assumption

The Ask an Entomologist” post I’m linking below is worth reading. A tale of beetle evolution, human management attempts, and a little bit of wartime propaganda. I found it interesting that both sides in WWII expected that the other side was going to weaponize the potato beetle, and both sides did research for both offensive use and defensive protection against weaponized crop-eaters. But in the end, neither deployed the beetle intentionally—it just proliferated simply by lack of management:

  • lack of quarantine checks
  • lack of insecticide supply
  • lack of agricultural laborers

that were all secondary effects of war efforts—both Axis and Ally.

Fun article. Read it, starting from the 3rd paragraph.

There’s speculation that CPB was used as a biological weapon in WWII because potatoes were an important wartime staple. The idea was that CPB would cause the countries at war to burn more resources to produce food. Research designed to turn this insect into a weapon was certainly done by both sides, but it’s natural spread most likely rendered this unnecessary.

During WWII, there was a lot of research into chemical warfare by both the Allied and Axis powers. Although this was supposedly to develop new weapons, much of it was out of fear of the Colorado Potato Beetle. The first organophosphates, nerve gasses turned pesticides, were invented while looking for new ways to fight the CPB in preparation for such an event.