The UIUC Department of Entomology is hosting the 35th Annual Insect Fear Film Festival on Saturday, February 24th, showcasing films about insects and other arthropods in Foellinger Auditorium. The purpose of the family-friendly festival is to promote the importance bugs have in our everyday lives, regardless of their poor reputation, through hands-on activities, balloon-insects, face painting, and informative short films.

“We hope that this is an opportunity to make the insects and arthropods seem a little less terrifying, especially if the plot of the movies is not scientifically possible,” says graduate student Todd Johnson. “We certainly hope the audience enjoys the various interpretations of insects and arthropods as imagined by the lens of Hollywood, but the goal is to show attendees that insects and other arthropods are not as scary as many films make them out to be. Insects and other closely related arthropods are tremendously influential in the daily lives of humans through their contributions of ecosystem services such as the pollination of the food we eat and the wildflowers we enjoy on hikes or walks in the park. The theme of our festival is different every year this provides an opportunity to not only show a lot of fun films, but to discuss common misconceptions about insects and arthropods.”

Each year, graduate students and other entomologists that organize the IFFF choose a bug to address any misconceptions and negative reputations associated with them. May Berenbaum, PhD, and head chair of Entomology at UIUC, chose ticks in order to repel the negative connotations these 8-legged creatures tend to have. Disease-spreading and blood sucking are the first things that come to mind when people think of ticks; however, the main goal of the IFFF is to address rumors and myths commonly associated with these arthropods. “Because ticks are medically important, focusing the theme of the festival on them allows us entomologists to directly engage with the public to dispel rumors and myths about ticks as well as provide accurate information about what to do if someone thinks they have been bitten by a tick,” states Johnson. “In spite of their ecological and economic importance, there are many misconceptions about insects, or a general lack of knowledge about the science of entomology.”

The event will begin with an episode from the animated television series “Ben 10” which features an extraterrestrial destroying the earth with tick-like features. Following “The Big Tick” (2006), an episode featuring a scientist searching for a tick-causing disease from the show “Soldiers of Fortune” (1955) will be shown. The night will conclude with an R-rated film, “Ticks” (1993), which follows a group of teens in the woods who encounter enormous mutated ticks from an illegal marijuana plantation.

Along with a display of live ticks on display in escape-proof containers, the IFFF will feature a live insect petting zoo, exotic insect displays from around the world, a raffle with arthropod-themed prizes, and a display of artwork from local schools. This event is a fun and educational festival with events suitable for children and adults of all ages.

The festival has become an opportunity to commit to lifelong learning about insects and arthropods that they may share with their friends and families,” concludes Johnson. “So, we believe it's important that the Department of Entomology forms a lasting relationship with the C-U community, and to continue having conversations about insects and arthropods with them.

Here is the schedule of events for the 35th Annual Insect Fear Film Festival:

6:00 pm Doors open: Activities, displays, exhibits in Foellinger lobby
7:00 pm Welcome, award and raffle winners, introduction to films
7:30 pm Big Tick (23 min)
8:00 pm Bite of the Ruby Red (30 min)
8:30 pm Ticks (85 min)

You can find out more about the festival on their website, or by following them on Facebook or Twitter @InsectFilmFest.