Protecting the Spineless from Extinction

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Syrphid fly

Syrphid flies are commonly known as hover flies. Their larvae feast on rose-killing aphids Alex Wild hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Wild

Honeybees used to be the only bugs anybody thought about saving. Everything besides butterflies got stomped, swatted, sprayed with pesticides or fried under magnifying glasses.

But one group, the nonprofit Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, is trying to protect a wide range of insects. Until recently, the Xerces Society fought only on behalf of butterflies. But Xerces Society director Scott Hoffman Black says times have changed. He now fights for beetles found in carcasses and snails so small that twenty will fit on a pinky finger.

"We protect the spineless," he explains with pride. "We see ourselves as equal opportunity — anything without a backbone."

Waiter, Is That an Endangered Fly in My Soup?

That fly zapper? Put it away. The next bug you swat may be on the endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) lists 44 insects as either endangered or threatened. Here, a sampling of invertebrate species that may not be as cute as manatees or as mysterious as the ivory-billed woodpecker, but still warrant federal protection:



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