Short film explores legendary entomologists’ decades-long relationship and contributions to the study of insects
“The Love Bugs,” an award-winning short documentary, answers that question. Co-directed and produced by Allison Otto and Maria Clinton, it follows the nonagenarians as they face old age, health problems and the wind-down of their scientific careers.
The O’Briens decided to donate more than 1,200 drawers of preserved insects to Arizona State University, and endowed professorships devoted to identifying and naming new insect species. It’s a massive undertaking that more than doubled the university’s collection, and a bittersweet one for the devoted couple.
The film explores their relationship, their bugs — including about 1 million weevils — and what the collection means to science. The university is digitizing the painstakingly preserved collection, which contains previously unknown species. Charlie O’Brien identified over half of the insects in the collection, a process that can take hundreds of hours per species.
But the documentary is about more than insects. It’s about love: Love