STEM Tuesday — Pests that Bug Us — Book List

Leeches, bedbugs, and plagues! These books focus on some of the plants, pests, and parasites that share our home and, in some cases, our body.

Bugged: How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee, illustrated by Robert Leighton

This book is filled with “death, disease, and disgusting details…” There are bugs that swarm, bugs that devour crops, and bugs that transmit plagues. There are also stories about insects that have built entire industries (think: silkworms, honeybees). The author even provides a “TMI” warning for some sidebars, so squeamish readers can avoid the grossest (and coolest) stuff.

Itch!: Everything You Didn’t Want to Know About What Makes You Scratch by Anita Sanchez

To understand why things itch, we need to understand how skin reacts to stings and bites. This book includes the usual buggy suspects as well as plants with spines, needles, and poisons. Readers will learn how to identify poison ivy, how fleas leap, and how bedbugs talk to each other and they’ll find non-toxic alternatives for treatment.

Infestation! : Roaches, Bedbugs, Ants and Other Insect Invaders by Sharon L. Reith

Ants! Cockroaches! Bedbugs! To get to know these pesky invaders you’ll have to become an insect detective. This book shows how to follow the clues and fight back without reaching for the poison first. Text boxes include Invader Facts and cool extras.

Bizarro Bloodsuckers by Ron Knapp

Mosquitoes, lice, leeches … just thinking about these little bloodsuckers gives some folks the shivers. But these tiny vampires aren’t trying to be disgusting – like any other creature, they just want to live. Each chapter focuses on one kind of organism, including a couple that don’t bother people at all.

What’s Eating You? Parasites – The Inside Story by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Neal Layton

You are a habitat to (potentially) more than 430 kinds of parasites! Text, accompanied by graphic panels, explores the lives of ticks, fleas, and other parasites that live on your body surface, the tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms that live inside you, and some of the defenses your body uses against them.

Plagues and Pandemics (History Smashers) by Kate Messner

A mix of conversational text and graphic panels takes readers on a world-wide tour of the best-known plagues and pandemics from ancient times to our current era. Highlights include the black death, smallpox, cholera, polio, Ebola, SARS, and Covid 19. The final chapter explores how to prevent the next pandemic.

Micro Mania: A Really Close-Up Look at Bacteria, Bedbugs & The Zillions of Other Gross Little Creatures That Live In, On & All Around You! by Jordan D. Brown

The mantra of this book is: you’re never alone. It introduces the microbes that live on your arms and legs, and some of the pests that live with us. Chapters have light-hearted titles, such as “You and Trillions of Your Close Personal Friends” and topics include foot fungus, farts, and the five-second rule.

Inside the World of Microbes by Howard Phillips

After exploring the basics of genetics and a brief survey of microbiology and scientists from 1665 to 1970, the book explores the beneficial, detrimental, fascinating, and extreme characteristics of bacteria, archaea, protists, and viruses. Full of stunning photos, many microscopic, and diagrams, as well as further reading and a list of U.S. and Canadian organizations.

The Case of the Flesh-Eating Bacteria by Michelle Faulk, PhD

Using an investigator’s voice and side cameos of crime detective Annie Biotica, this engaging book establishes the symptoms (“crime”), the microbes involved (suspect), and the tests and treatments for flesh-eating bacteria, pinkeye, ringworm, chicken pox, and measles. It includes microscopic photos, diagrams, and three additional cases for the reader to solve.

Little Monsters: The Creatures That Live on Us and in Us by Albert Marrin

Detailed photographs of these “creatures” and their effect on our bodies, accompany a conversational discussion of mosquitoes, mites, fleas, lice, worms, and the parasites or hyperparasites (parasites of parasites) that inhabit them. And highlights many scientists whose dogged tenacity and experimentation enabled the discovery (and in some case treatment) of these parasites. A final chapter offers ways to avoid parasites.

Sick! The Twists and Turns Behind Animal Germs by Heather L. Montgomery, illustrated by Lindsey Leigh

Humorous comic illustrations pair with a light-hearted, engaging narrative to take a deep dive into bacteria, fungi, and viruses and the scientists who’ve discovered amazing things about them. In learning how chimpanzees battle worms and stomach distress, frogs and ants fight against fungi, and a gator’s blood cell’s kill bacteria, they are finding possible applications and startling examples of symbiosis. Throughout, a bespectacled brain in a baseball cap, the “word nerd,” offers definitions and explanations and tons of “fun facts” and “not so fun facts” sidebars add to the fun.

And don’t forget American Murderer: The Parasite that Haunted the South by Gail Jarrow, a scary tale about hookworms that we featured back in October.

This month’s STEM Tuesday book list was prepared by:

Sue Heavenrich, author

Sue Heavenrich, who writes about science for children and their families on topics ranging from space to backyard ecology. Bees, flies, squirrel behavior—things she observes in her neighborhood and around her home—inspire her writing. Visit her at

Maria Marshall, a children’s author, blogger, and poet who is passionate about making nature and reading fun for children. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she watches birds, travels the world, bakes, and hikes. Visit her at

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Jennifer Swanson
Science ROCKS! And so do Jennifer Swanson's books. She is the award-winning author of over 40 nonfiction books for kids. Jennifer Swanson’s love of science began when she started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. While no longer working from the garage, you can find Jennifer at her favorite place to explore the world around her.
Jennifer is also the creator and administrator of #STEMTuesday and #STEAMTeam2020