A free lecture and film screening Thursday at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal aims to delight and inform listeners, whatever their feelings on bugs.
“The Buzz on Bugs” is a two-part event from 6- 8 p.m., beginning with a talk from Dr. Ashley Kennedy, creator of the crowdsourced project, “What Do Birds Eat,” which discusses the findings of her work studying bird diets.
Following the talk will be a short documentary called “The Love Bugs,” featuring two of the world’s top entomologists — Lois O’Brien, 90, and her husband Charlie, 85 — who have amassed the largest private collection of insects from more than 70 countries across all seven continents.
The film explores the couple’s devotion to insects, science and each other during their effort to donate their life’s work — which they estimate at more than $10 million.
“We think of it in terms of scientific value,” Charlie O’Brien says in a trailer of the film posted at www.thelovebugsfilm.com.
“We want the collection to be a permanent research collection,” he says.
“In a way,” says his wife, “our work is immortal.”
The couple donated their collection to Arizona State University, the school announced in a news release in March 2017, calling it “a global collection of meticulously classified insect specimens, including more than 1 million weevils and 250,000 planthoppers.”
The university said that thanks to the $12 million gift, it was poised to become “a leading center for understanding an insect group that has shown potential to be helpful, even as it has been harmful, to the agriculture industry.”
The film’s website calls it “a light-hearted portrait of two aging but dedicated scientists that captures the tender moments, inside jokes and good-natured bickering that can only come from sharing a marriage and career for 55 years.”
Thursday’s lecture and film screening are hosted by Virginia Working Landscapes, a program offered by the biology institute. Virginia Working Landscapes began a pilot survey last year on a new research program on arthropods — insects with hard exoskeletons instead of spines, segmented bodies and jointed legs — and their diversity and nutritional quality across native and non-native eastern grasslands.
Thursday’s lecture will discuss the importance of arthropods and the effects humans have on them.
“It should be a great event,” said Virginia Working Landscapes Program Director Amy Johnson. “We’re hoping that it will inspire community members to recognize the significant roles that insects play in supporting healthy ecosystems.”
Kelsey Schoenemann, an entomologist and intern with Virginia Working Landscapes, said she hopes attendees will see “that our choices make a difference for their continued existence.”
Arthropods represent a huge part of everyday life, she said, “including, but not limited to, feeding the songbirds, pollinating the flowers, keeping potential pests in check, and recycling organic waste.” Unfortunately, she said, the importance of arthropods can easily be overlooked.
“Humans are impacting the planet in a profound and lasting way,” she explained. “[V]irtually no places are left that don’t bear some mark of human development or industry.”
Knowing how our actions affect arthropod communities “empowers us to identify and protect the natural resources that contribute to our wellbeing.”
The event is free, but registration is required. Register online at www.vaworkinglandscapes.org/education/upcoming-workshops/702-the-buzz-on-bugs-a-free-lecture-and-film-screening or email Virginia Working Landscapes’ outreach coordinator, Charlotte Lorick, at LorickC@si.edu.