The dreaded Bushman



The Bushmen are known for the poisons they put on their arrow tips to kill their prey.  They use the venom of snakes, like the mamba, as well as poisonous plants.  But in the northern Kalahari, the most commonly used poisonous substance for arrows is that derived from the larva and pupae of chrysomelid beetles in the genus Diamphidia.  You can click HERE for more information about this interesting beetle.

And you can click HERE to see how the Bushmen make the poison.

Once the arrow has lodged in the animal, the poison begins to work.  However, in a large antelope, such as an eland, or in a giraffe, it takes a while for the animal to die.  Sometimes the Bushman hunter has to run after the animal for long distances, sometimes up to 70 or 80 kilometres (50 miles).

The amazing thing is how the Bushmen ever found this poison.  Basically this nondescript beetle is reasonably widespread in the Kalahari.  The larvae work their way up to a metre (three feet) underground near the roots of the tree.

So how did the Bushmen ever find these larvae?  They are underground and hard to see anyway.

Second, how did they know that carefully crushing the larvae causes this hemotoxic poison to be formed?

Third, how did they then know that this poison could be used on an arrowhead to bring down the greatest of antelopes – the eland?

And finally how did they know that they could eat the meat of the eland or other antelope they had killed using the poison?

Of course, as writers, our interest in the poison is that it is poorly researched and has no known antidote.  You get nicked and you are dead!  Do you think there is a murder plot emerging here?

In the Bushman world, this poison is akin to nuclear bombs in the West.  Bushmen are reticent about fighting within their clans because everyone has access to this (and other) toxins that are invariably fatal.  Starting a fight has the potential for the parties to resort to using one or more of the toxins.  Not a good idea