Humans seem to have a thing against bugs, spiders, centipedes, insects. Some people may argue we should eat them, but in the meantime, the only bug I want to see near my food is a bee on the side of a honey jar. And that’s where we exactly where we begin:
HALLUCINOGENIC OR MAD HONEY
The Gurung, a tribe of honey hunters in Nepal, brave steep mountain paths, dizzyingly high cliffs, and swirling swarms of bees, to get precious red or mad honey. With no protective clothing, they set up rope ladders with long bamboo poles in order to collect the honey of the world’s largest honeybees, Apis laboriosa. These massive bees build into the sides of cliffs in order to avoid predators while laboring under the stern criticism of local Maoist guerrillas.
The Red Honey causes sedation, almost like being drunk. In high doses, it can induce hallucinations. Because of the medicinal properties of red honey, tourists from all over East Asia flock to Nepal, and capitalism is only too happy to exploit the bees. Today, they’re under threat from over-harvesting and depopulation.
Mad honey isn’t exclusive to the cliffs of Nepal. In Turkey, it’s intentionally produced as deli bal and was used to poison a Roman army. It’s actually the local flora, rhododendrons, which create the effect. Rhododendron nectar contains grayanotoxins, a group of closely related toxins produced by family Ericaceae, which includes rhododendrons, cranberries, and azaleas. Though only rhododendrons produce enough to make the honey intoxicating.
The grayanotoxins in small doses cause symptoms like drunkenness, euphoria, tinglings, and even hallucinations. Large doses more often create hallucinations, but then comes nausea, vomiting, seizures, and in high enough doses, death. You can try, but I haven’t had any luck in finding any, if you do, send me a line. I want something more exotic for my morning oatmeal.
We’ve all heard of spanish fly — the mysterious aphrodisiac that you can buy anywhere that Americans find exotic. It is a brilliant iridescent emerald green beetle known as Lytta vesicatoria, though other species in the same family, Meloidae, are also sometimes called “spanish fly.”
It has a long history: North African Ras el hanout, the best of the best spice mix used spanish fly before it was banned. Supposedly the wife of Augustus Caesar dosed her guests with it, in order to blackmail them for their naughty behavior. It was popular in France, and the Marquis de Sade is said to have given it to a group of prostitutes in an orgy. But they began vomiting and died.
The active ingredient is cantharidin, a powerful irritant that can cause blistering chemical burns. In fact, the species name “vesicatoria” comes from vesicant, meaning blistering agent. The entire family Meloidae are commonly called blister beetles. You can buy heavily diluted cantharidin creams to remove warts or tattoos. Just 10mg of cantharidin can be enough to kill. Horses are particularly sensitive, and infested hay can kill an entire stable of horses.
So how did this end up as an aphrodisiac? The mating behavior of spanish fly is to blame. The male will go over to the female, grip her by the antenna, and wiggle so quickly, that it appears blurred. This ritual can go on for up to 20 hours. No wonder people thought they had sexual prowess. An extremely small dose can cause a rush of blood to the penis, causing an erection.
The side effects of real spanish fly are painful blistering, vomiting blood, shitting blood, kidney failure, and death. Be thankful that the “spanish fly” you bought in Mexico was fake.
These fuckers help ruin any summertime outdoors meal. You’re just trying to enjoy the weather, and before you know it, wasps are crawling all over your food and sweet drink. You try and swat them away, and one of them repays your hospitality in kind. On Erowid, one person found himself in an interesting situation: He’s out picking pears for cider, when he finds he had several wasp stings. As the venom takes hold, something strange happens:
“Afterwards I began to notice that I wasn’t having any symptoms of my ADD. What I mean by this is; instead of just randomly knocking off pears from the tree, I divided the tree up into sections, and in an orderly manner cleared each section and picked up the pears in an orderly fashion. Now a simple task like this may seem easy for some, but for those who have ADD, organizing a task like this can be daunting.”
His memory and arousal also improved.
“I also noticed an increase in my working memory… I also had this immense sexual arousal at the sight of a female body, similar to when I had tried Wellbutrin.”
The whole experience has left him eager to try another round.
“If given the chance I would definitely try this again. It seems to have great potential as a sexual recreational “bug drug.”
This one was a challenge, but a search of the literature reveals that wasps inject neurotransmitters when stinging us — specifically, norepinephrine –which causes the small arteries to constrict. This slows the flow of blood, keeping the venom in one location. It’s here where the rest of the venom takes hold, attacking and dissolving our cells as a warning to not fuck with a wasp.
Norepinephrine is also responsible for holding concentration, something that people with ADHD suffer from. Wellbutrin (bupropion) is a non-SSRI antidepressant and is used to treat ADHD. It’s an NDRI, a norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor. This results in stimulating side effects, including increased concentration, wakefulness, and an increase in sexual desire.
Speaking of venom, Indian doctors have discovered what happens when heroin addicts can’t get their fix. A 60-year old addict came in for detox, and revealed that when he couldn’t find heroin, he would search in crevices for scorpions. He would force them to sting his hands, and then he fell over for 6 hours, in an intense rush. No hallucinations, but apparently, it still worked.
Scorpion venom contains a lot of exotic substances, including low weight polypeptides, that act on our sodium ion channels. These toxins can activate, and inactivate our neurons, possibly causing abnormal releases of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, or GABA. This is probably the cause of the so-called rush.
Side effects include severe pain, anxiety, agitation, lungs filling with fluid, seizures, heart failure, coma, and death. In light of that, I’m in no hurry to search underneath rocks or provoke what I find underneath them. Nor should you be.
FIRE ANT COFFEE
This one’s a true nightmare scenario fit for any SyFy horror movie, and a damn good reason to switch to K-cup coffee forever: A man returns to his filthy dorm room to find his coffee maker infested with fire ants. Jonesing for his caffeine fix, he washes it out:
“Then I ran some water through it to clean out any ants that were left. My mistake was assuming that all the ants were in the basket or flushed from the first pot.”
In the future, if you ever find your coffee maker filled with hundreds of ants, maybe clean it more thoroughly. Or even better, throw the entire thing out. Don’t go make a cup of coffee.
“I brewed a pot of coffee and started to drink it. I failed to notice the little ant bodies floating in the pot.”
If it was 2 AM, in my dorm with some joints, I would have been covering my eyes at this point in the made-for-TV movie. I would be fighting the urge to vomit or scream.
“After a cup and a half my whole face was tingling and felt numb in patches. It didn’t take me long to sort out what was going on. The ant toxin was in the coffee.”
“I slowly drank some more just to see what the affects would be like.”
WHY? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?
“They were pretty unpleasant. Really tingly itching all over my face and I started to feel flush.”
Give this man an Ignoble Prize for discovering that fire ants suck in coffee.
“Fire ants” use a toxic, necrotic, and hemolytic venom to hunt and defend themselves. A bite from these ants is extremely painful, and soon red bumps and white pustules will develop. R.I.P. if you have an allergy, because that will cause anaphylactic shock and will eventually kill you. Their venom is loaded with novel piperidines, that inhibit our nitric oxide signaling system. Nitric oxide is a neurotransmitter, that we use in muscle control, blood vessel dilation, and in other places.
Face flushing was likely caused by the venom attacking his nitric oxide system in his circulatory system, causing the blood vessels to expand or dilate. The itching was probably a slight allergic reaction to the poison.
#protip: if you see fire ants in your coffee DO NOT DRINK IT.
BLACK WIDOW SPIDER VENOM
Black widow spiders are actually part of genus Lactrodectus, well known for the female’s propensity to sometimes consume the male after sex. In Australia, they’re called redback spiders, which are farmed and then “milked”, by prisoners desperate for anything to get fucked up off of. A first-hand experience from a horny college kid gives us an idea of what they’re looking for: He went out into the woods, to drink, smoke, and fuck. He manages to stick his hand into a web, whose resident widow spider is unhappy about the intrusion, and shows its displeasure to bite him:
“I tried to continue having sex, but my hand was hurting so bad and I had to stop.”
His friends have to carry him back, and as he gets worse, they decide to drunk-drive him to a hospital. It is on this car ride, that the venom truly hits him.
“This is when the blackouts and hallucinations began. The spider poison gave me a trip like I had never had before… There were parts of the trip where it felt like I was in a bubble, parts where I watched the trees grow really really tall and then shrink back to normal…”
In his delirium, he’s unable to speak properly, and babbles.
“[I was] saying a bunch of random shit I don’t remember. I know that about 30 minutes in, my friends couldn’t even understand what I was saying because my speech was slurred so bad.”
Eventually, he gets to a hospital, where he rates his pain, on a scale of 1 to 10 as 11. He rewards his friend’s quick thinking to get him to the ER with love stains.
“On the way back, my ex-girlfriend and I finished our business in the back of my friends car, against his wishes.”
It’s good to see that almost dying from a black widow bite doesn’t distract a person from the most important thing for a college student, getting laid.
The poisoning syndrome from a widow spider bite is called latrodectism. With a fast reaction and prompt medical treatment it’s rarely deadly to humans. The spiders are also non-aggressive, and will only bite if they’re threatened. Shoving your hand into its web while thrusting vigorously or trapping them in a jar counts as threatening.
The venom is made up of high molecular weight neurotoxins called latrotoxins. It causes extreme pain, muscle cramping, nausea, vomiting, and overall feeling like shit. Latrotoxins cause your neurons to dump huge loads of neurotransmitters. The flood of serotonin, dopamine, GABA, norepinephrine, and whatever-the-fuck else can cause a rush and hallucinations. While deaths are rare, there’s still a chance it could happen.
God help you if you try and have fun with these; try not to die.