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So I recently had this bizarre idea on using Swarming Wasps as Bio-weapons.

(I'm going to simply use Bio-engineered wasps instead of bees for sake of less confusion on what the swarm is of)

The idea was to construct some kind of explosive [From a grenade, mine, trap,etc.] that contains pheromones to attract the wasps, once detonated. All the User needs to do is open a container of angry Fabric piercing Bio-engineered wasps and let the magic happen. The Wasps can be bioengineered to only attack those with the pheromone on them, so that way there won't be any drawbacks.

The only few benefits I would see with this kind of weapon is possibly be useful for crowd control or for as a non-lethal area defense weapon.

[You could always augment some kind of paralysis or sleep venom in them]

you also wouldn't really need to worry about tranquilizers that much because the aiming is done for you.

The problem is that I don't really see how they can be a better alternative to traditional chemical weapons; because, if you were focusing on just lethality, You may be better off with just using explosives

So is this kind of weapon really practical in a modern battle?

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  • $\begingroup$ It's non-lethal to the non-allergic. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Oct 24 '17 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ Not sure about wasps, but mosquitoes might work (if you've read the One Punch Man manga series) ;) $\endgroup$ – paracetamol Oct 25 '17 at 7:03
  • $\begingroup$ In the Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury has the Martians fight by sending swarms of bees against the Humans. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Oct 26 '17 at 3:29
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It's "practical" right up until you use it exactly once.

Such a weapon could be argued to potentially very useful in scenarios where the enemy is a guerrilla force which is blended in with the local populace (aka what the US has been fighting for the past 10+ years in Iraq and Afghanistan).

Don't know who the enemy combatants are? The wasps will! (gunpowder residue left on clothing, etc.)

That being said, however, how long after the enemy sees the wasps in action do you think it is that they'll start spreading gunpowder around villages, and in busy market places, waiting for your wasps to go haywire and kill innocent civilians?

This sort of targeted weapon is easily defeated once you understand what the criteria on which it acquires it's prey is. By ensuring lots of collateral casualties you will be forced to stop using said weapon.

Countries with modern military technology will probably develop other countermeasures such as sonic repellents, potent bug sprays, or even weaponized wasps of their own, whose only purpose will be to hunt down your wasps.

Even low-tech forces will be able to defend against them by simply deploying electric insect traps, bug spray, thick clothing, etc.

Additionally, surviving wasps will potentially pose a danger to your own troops in the future.

At the end of the day these wasps constitute nothing more than a gimmick.

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    $\begingroup$ This could be somewhat slowed down by dropping the amount of wasps so it looks like "just a plague", and make the toxic slow working, so it takes, say, two weeks before that can start to connect dots. $\endgroup$ – Martijn Oct 25 '17 at 9:34
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Limit stealth

If you can track the insects better than you can track their soldiers it may be more valuable to mark some of them then kill them. Especially if it wasn't possible to remove the pheromone in the field. Say release a wasp every minute to be sure you know where the main group is.

Long term harassment

If the pheromone stuff is obnoxious to remove and attracts an insect common throughout the area, afflicted soldiers might have a hard time for a long time. This might be more valuable than killing in line with maiming reducing forces more than killing; unit cohesion might suffer if some fraction of their forces always brings insects to bother his buddies.

Secret marking

It may be possible to secretly deploy the pheromone without any obvious effect some time before the conflict. Say you splash the goods of some merchant who does business with them, then a week later their whole camp is overrun with pests providing cover for a real attack.

Centrally controlled escalation

Your troops are only responsible for marking targets, no chance of someone loading real bullets when command called for rubber ones. The decision makers also are never in harms way.

Say you start out only wanting to bother them a little, say to disperse a peaceful crowd. Your police splash them then command releases some wasps with regular stingers. If that fails, say they take cover command releases the wasps capable of breaking through glass, or resistant to being swatted. Later you want to arrest some of them, so command releases the tranquilizer wasps.

Injection

Having access to enemy soldiers' blood in their bodies might be more valuable than just getting it outside. It is generally much easier to make things have an effect as a shot than through the skin or lungs, and a much lower amount is needed if you can be pretty sure it will get to the person than with gas or liquids that can be blocked or go places other than the targets. You could give them diseases which requires longterm care bankrupting their country even if the win every battle. You might with enough biology knowledge mess with their brains, making them a danger to their own side.

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Stinging insects are dangerous only if the target has exposed skin or wear light clothes.

A thicker robe and a face mask are sufficient to disable the offensive potential of your wasps.

Consider that even in desert scenario soldiers never fight bare skinned, and they are already trained to fight wearing a gas mask. So forcing them to wear a wasp protecting mask is no big deal.

Marine uniforms during operation Desert Storm

Nevertheless your weapon can be better used for stealth attacks in sensitive location, where a human would be suspicious. Just label the target with a paintball loaded with the pheromone (or something similar), and set the swarm free while you hide in safety.

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    $\begingroup$ The paintball approach is of dubious value. Paintball guns don't have much range, and are more difficult to hit a target with (much more easily influenced by wind, etc.) If the target is in range, why not simply shoot said target with a regular weapon? Stealth attacks have some value up until the "bad guys" know what the wasps are looking for. At that point they'll spray the area down with bug spray, coat surrounding surfaces in gunpowder residue, etc. ahead of time, in order to confuse your super high tech insects. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Oct 24 '17 at 19:22
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This isn't practical, Any radius that your pheromone bomb can cover a conventional bomb could cover as well.

As far as crowd control, it would be less lethal though, you would still end up with casualties, especially of bystanders. It would not be good PR to have some kid dieing from anaphylactic shock simply because he was passing a riot.

Its also impractical making and maintaining all those wasps compared to conventional armaments. If you say they take care of themselves well now you have a bioweapon that is infesting a region like an invasive species, you would have no way to hit the off button.

Flamethrowers and thick suits would be very effective countermeasures against them.

And finally this is potentially banned by the Geneva convention. While it explicitly bans bacteriological bioweapons it also says toxicological weapons. Being that the wasps inject a toxin, potentially indiscriminately, it would likely be counted as such.

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I can see this as being an interesting weapon, and it has its pros with its use. However, there are also (as with most things) cons.

Pros:

For one, a swarm of killer wasps is difficult to fight off. In many video games and books centered in the dystopian genre, swarms of murderous insects are used quite often for this very reason. You can shoot at the swarm all you want, but there are always too many for a few pathetic bullets to do enough damage. You can attempt cutting at them with a sharp weapon or go on a desperate attempt of bug-spraying the air, but more often than not even that won't do any good against genetically modified bugs. The fact that a swarm is so hard to defeat is a major pro to any government or military force using such tactics.

Another pro would be the fact that the swarm of wasps (assuming they can be controlled by whoever is using them) is controllable. Nukes, explosives, and weapons of mass destruction cause accidents, you can't tell an explosive what its target is or what it is not supposed to harm, its only task is to harm anything around it and blow it to smithereens, friend or foe. Assuming the wasps are genetically modified to do so, a swarm of killer wasps has more practicality in this way. Someone can tell them exactly what the target is, and they will only attack the one target, taking no accidental collateral damage on an ally that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They could potentially be able to recognize who is the enemy and who is not, and hence their attacks would be much more precise, potentially taking out the risk of harming your own allies.

The idea of a swarm of wasps can be lethal. Just because they seem pretty harmless now in the real world, considering they are only about the length of your pinkie finger and cause relatively little pain, doesn't mean they have to be harmless in your story. Give their venom a kick to it, in the Hunger Games a wasp like creature called Tracker Jackers could send you into a delusional frenzy if you were stung by one. Why not have yours do something similar? Maybe being stung by one means certain, painful death, maybe instant death, maybe it forces you to see the thing you are most afraid of (give it a bit of a Scarecrow from the DC franchise vibe) or maybe it sends you so insane you feel a giant, uncontrollable urge to kill everyone you love, or maybe you turn into one (more far-fetched, but still doable depending on what your story is like). Even better, give your swarm of wasps size. Why not make them the size of a human... or bigger? The only issue there is they would be easier to shoot at and kill, however also more overwhelming upon attack, so there is a pro and con in that change. Or you could keep them tiny. Tiny can be deadly too.

Cons:

If this is modern warfare as in 2000s contemporary, a swarm of wasps as a weapon is going to be difficult to pull off. People can see that happening in dystopian or sci-fi novels, but if this is contemporary people won't believe your story. In today's day and age, the technology to pull something like making genetically modified and mentally controlled swarms of killer wasps is... non-existent, to say the least. Besides that, governments wouldn't fund such a project, not now anyways. The money for it would certainly be off-the-charts, not to mention the idea now would seem ridiculous to government leaders. Maybe in the future when the technology is around (or if your novel is contemporary science fiction, but if it's just contemporary... most likely the idea is going to be shunned, both by characters and the audience.

Wasps are killable. I stated before that a swarm of them would be difficult to kill (and that comment still stands), however they are, eventually, killable and destructible. They aren't metal, so certain things are going to wound them that would have no effect on, say, a tank. On the Swarm vs Explosives point you brought up, explosives don't get wounded. They wouldn't physically get hurt and then go into survival mode with the possibility of retreat because they don't think, they are simply explosives and that is what they will do one way or another: explode. Wasps on the other hand still have instincts. They will get hurt and possibly die (although with a swarm of them even if a few die there is no real damage done other than loosing "troops," with victory sill a possibility of the high 90 percentile. However because they are creatures, genetically modified or otherwise, survival instincts are still in tact. If a lot of them, in some way, were to get wounded, there is a high chance the rest would retreat, simply out of survival instincts. Now I could be wrong, they could simply get more angry and sting more people (which is what wasps and bees typically do when threatened), but still, it is a possibility to consider.

The idea you have with the explosive of pheromones could actually cause drawbacks. Like a normal explosive (which doesn't care who or what is around it, it will explode and cause damage), a pheromone explosive would have the same issue. If there is an ally near it when it explodes, they're screwed. The pheromones will get on that person and the wasps won't think twice about stinging them or killing them or whatever it is the wasps are supposed to do. That is definitely going to be an issue and is probably the biggest thing that would need to change, in my opinion.

Versus a tank, seeing as you said "modern warfare," wasps are not going to be able to sting it. They could... but it isn't going to do anything unless their stings are explosive or somethin. That is also going to be an issue you'll need to get around (and it is able to be solved). Maybe have the wasps swarm and carry the tank, then drop it from high in the air (kind of comical) or have them be smart enough to pry open the hatch and get inside. Whatever you do, this is a problem you will need to address.

Conclusion:

I'd say don't give up on the idea. It's a good one, and could certainly work for different genres or scenes. Personally, I have a (granted, irrational) fear of bees and wasps, so this idea would literally be my worst nightmare. Because of that, I think the idea is great. I know I'm not the only one who would be scared out of their mind if a swarm of wasps came to attack. The idea could totally work, you just have to take into account the cons and find a way to solve them or work around them.

Not everyone will like the idea, but of course when does that ever happen? The idea may not seem practical to some (it is far-fetched in modern times), but it certainly isn't impossible, do not count it out. As I stated at the beginning, many stories (books, movies, video games) have already used an element similar to this one. It isn't impossible and the idea has some practicality: its been used in popular stories before (i.e. The Hunger Games, Hive, the Stung series, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, and more), but there are parts of it that are also impractical that you should keep in mind. Don't be discouraged if you get stuck, it happens, and I'm sure you can work through the issues and impracticalities. Overall it's a good idea; it may need tweaks here and there and cons need to be addressed and fixed, but nonetheless it is doable.

Hope this helps, good luck!

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Secrecy is key, but this could be useful, at least for a while.

I'm thinking using them to take on guerrilla troops like the ones hiding in caves in Afghanistan. We know there are terrorists hiding in caves, but we don't know which ones. The wasps will help us find them.

First, have the pheromone activate only when it comes in contact with a human. Saturate the area with it. When someone goes in or out of a cave, the pheromone activates and pulls in the swarm. Add some sort of tracking to the swarm, so you know what cave they went into. The swarm knocks everyone out, and troops have time to go in and capture everyone with minimal casualties.

It might work, it might not. It's no crazier than some military ideas like The Military stink bomb

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