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Bugged: How Insects Changed History


Found in: science, social studiespreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

Bugged: How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee and illustrated by Robert Leighton is, as the jacket copy promises, “swarming with facts” about how insects have influenced human history. It’s also crawling with buggy puns and squirmingly accurate details that will appeal to students (well, maybe not the squeamish) such as: “An insect is an invertebrate. Meaning there are no bones inside its body. Most bugs have hard exoskeletons to protect their soft guts, which is why you may hear a grotesque cracking sound if you squish one.” And yes, the author explains that though “bug” is used as a synonym for insect, true bugs are only a small fraction of all insects. But let's not be PedANTic.

Bugged captures the Web experience in print with a variety of type fonts and many illustrations and sidebars that relate scientific discovery and history. In the chapter titled “Dastardly Diseases and Demented Dictators,” Charles Darwin’s declining health is tentatively attributed to Chagas’ Disease, a disease caused by a protist carried by blood-sucking insects Darwin encountered in Argentina. That last chapter, “Now What?” describes human attempts to combat insect borne disease.

The book has a glossary, provides notes on sources, and suggests print and Internet resources for further investigation.

Bugged can serve as a resource for grades K-12. Higher-level students will probably find it most useful as a source of ideas for investigation.

Here are three lessons on the role of insects in disease in humans and agriculture:

  • It’s (Not) Just A Bug asks students in grades 6-12 to investigate how crops are affected by insects and to create an agricultural plan to protect crops. Standards included.
  • The Middle Ages and the Plague ( PDF, 37 KB, 2 pgs.) grades 9-12 research the Plague, identify its cause, and present their findings to the class.
  • In Climate Change and Disease ( PDF, 87 KB, 7 pgs.) students in grades 9-12 investigate the relationship between hosts, parasites, and vectors for common vector-borne diseases and evaluate how climate change might affect the spread of disease.
  • And finally, the website Insects, Disease, and History provides background resources on insect-borne disease and how they have influenced history.

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