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Annual film festival attempts to lighten stigma of insects

Lubber grasshopper featured in the Insect Fear Film Festival in 2018.

URBANA – The 39th Insect Fear Film Festival at the University of Illinois continues to try to change people’s perspectives on insects.

Insect Fear Festival #39 VENOM, February 26, 2022.

The online festival will include insect films, a virtual petting zoo, and much more. One graduate student has volunteered to be stung live while explaining his reaction in real-time.

Entomology Graduate Student Association president Jon Tetlie says the theme for this year’s festival is “Venom.”

“So one of the main reasons was that immune systems are kind of on everybody’s mind during the pandemic,” says Tetlie. “Oftentimes with venomous things or bites, the immune system and specifically histamines are activated. So it’s sort of adjacent in that sense.”

Entomology Graduate Student Edward Hsieh says the festival will also include special guest Justin Shmidt, who created the Shmidt Pain Index.

“He went out and stung or bit himself across a huge, huge number of different venomous insects and then created a scale going from about one to four,” says Hsieh. “And then included very visceral descriptions of what each stung each thing felt like.”

Hsieh says this film festival ​​is an approach to community outreach.

He says the idea is not just to highlight insects using cinema but to also break down the negative stigma insects have.

Picture of Luis Velazquez-Perez

Luis Velazquez-Perez

Luis Velazquez- Perez recently earned a B.S. in Journalism with a minor in Latina/Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is now pursuing his Master's in Journalism. Aside as an intern at Illinois Newsroom, Velazquez-Perez has written for The Daily Illini, Cicero Independiente and C-U CitizenAccess. He aspires to be a bilingual public radio journalist

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