News Bureau | ILLINOIS

CHAMPAIGN, Unwell. — The topic for the pandemic version of the Insect Concern Movie Competition is fleas – those people creatures that make your animals itch but also transmit the plague.

The occasion is in its 38th calendar year, and this year’s Insect Dread Film Festival Featuring Fleas will be solely on the internet for the 1st time. The festival is Feb. 27 at 5 p.m. The occasion is cost-free and open to the public, but registration is demanded.

“If we were being ever to have a competition about fleas, we could as nicely do it digitally because fleas are also modest for a group of folks to see less than normal circumstances,” reported May well Berenbaum, the founder of the movie competition and the head of the entomology office at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

“In the midst of a pandemic, it looks an correct concept to concentrate on an insect affiliated with pandemics, and even worse pandemics than what we’re going through suitable now,” she reported.

Fleas are the main vectors that unfold the bubonic plague. The Plague of Justinian commenced in the 6th century and killed tens of millions of individuals. In the late Middle Ages, the Black Dying killed up to 200 million individuals. A third plague outbreak in the 19th century killed up to 15 million individuals.

“What stopped it was science. By 1907, experts figured out what induced it and transmitted it. It’s amazing to imagine about how latest this expertise is. For 1 of the world’s deadliest disorders, the transmission cycle was figured out only 100 decades back,” Berenbaum explained.

Fleas are vectors of fatal diseases but also objects of fascination. The Insect Concern Movie Pageant Featuring Fleas will look at these bugs, such as the history of flea circuses.

“The Go-As-You-Be sure to Race, as Seen By a Magnifying Glass,” engraved by J. G. Francis, from an write-up by C. F. Holder in St. Nicholas Journal, 1886

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons


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While fleas can transmit fatal illnesses, persons have a selected amount of money of fascination and even admiration for them – typically due to the fact of the creatures’ jumping ability, Berenbaum said. Fleas can bounce 150 moments their possess height and speed up at 100 situations the drive of gravity – more rapidly than the house shuttle. Observing the distinctive locomotion of fleas likely led to the reputation of flea circuses in the 19th century that featured fleas attached to very small carts, tightropes and other miniature goods.

“People found it entertaining to wire them up to chariots and give them swords to phase historic battles,” Berenbaum reported.

Tim Cockerill, a U.K. zoologist with an curiosity in flea circuses, will look at the festival. Cockerill phases his very own flea circuses, and he’ll talk about the background of the functions and his ordeals. He will not be able to stage a reside flea circus at the competition simply because of the issue of discovering fleas all through the winter, Berenbaum explained.

The festival’s movies include “Koko Trains ‘Em,” a 1925 small silent movie about a flea circus.

The first movie on the agenda, “Bobby Bumps’ Pup Receives the Flea-enza,” is a cartoon manufactured in 1919, for the duration of the Spanish flu pandemic, about a canine with fleas. The canine 1st appears onscreen putting on a mask. “The most correct cartoon we have at any time demonstrated,” Berenbaum said. “It’s completely charming.”

The screenings will include things like a 1950 Army education film about managing rat fleas.

“To see the portions of DDT employed to regulate fleas, applied by people not sporting masks, not wearing gloves, making use of it inches thick and packing it like snowballs and hurling it at a wall – it’s jaw-dropping,” Berenbaum claimed.

A plague flea (Xenopsylla cheopis)

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons


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Audiences will see a sequence of effective insecticide commercials from the 1980s and 1990s that attribute animated fleas and other pest bugs with the redundant slogan “Raid kills bugs dead.” The screenings will include a montage of information stories about modern cases of bubonic plague. Berenbaum hopes to show a movie about utilizing fleas to distribute illness as an agent of organic warfare through Entire world War II.

Even even though it just cannot be held in particular person, the competition will contain the activities it capabilities just about every 12 months in addition to the movies. Entomology graduate college students will demonstrate off the much larger arthropods that make standard appearances at the festival’s petting zoo – hissing cockroaches, beetles and tarantulas.

Tommy McElrath, the curator of the Illinois Natural Heritage Survey’s insect collection, will give a tour of the collection and talk about the value of collecting flea specimens.

People viewing the festival on the net will get to see magnified visuals of fleas becoming imaged in serious time through Bugscope, a scanning electron microscope at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technological innovation.

Ventriloquist Hannah Leskosky – Berenbaum’s daughter – will conduct with her canine puppet, who occurs to have a flea that is chatting back to him.

The competition will announce the winners of its once-a-year art contest and showcase illustrations or photos of the art on-line. It also will incorporate craft jobs, these as an origami flea.