An ode to invertebrates


The High Country News GOAT Blog has high praise for the Xerces Society and its 40 years of advocacy on behalf of invertebrates of all kind:

Invertebrates are the planet’s soil tillers and pollen pimps, its gravediggers and stream cleaners; the animal kingdom’s working class. In fact, they represent 99 percent of life on earth. So what better time than now, during “Occupy” mania, for the Xerces Society to celebrate 40 years of advocacy on behalf of invertebrates, Earth’s industrious, but neglected, 99 percent? . . . .

The Society began as a small volunteer group of Lepidopterists committed to the conservation of moths and butterflies, the insect world’s gentle, winged ambassadors. They created the popular Fourth of July Butterfly Count (which the North American Butterfly Association took over in 1993) and the Monarch Project, through which the Society protects the butterfly’s feeding and overwintering sites along its migration route in Mexico and California.

But in the early 80’s, Xerces went pro, hiring a full-time staff, taking on eminent scientific advisors — including the great conservation biologist and insectophile E.O. Wilson — and broadening its focus from Lepidoptera to native pollinators, aquatic invertebrates, freshwater mussels, and endangered insects. The group’s work has involved myriad western species such as the Taylor’s checkerspot, a vibrant grassland butterfly from the Pacific Northwest; the Siuslaw hairy-necked tiger beetle, a rare predatory beetle that stalks Oregon’s beaches for prey, and the western glacier stonefly, a glacier meltwater-dependent invertebrate known from a single area in Montana’s Glacier National Park.

One wonders, however, what the author and the Society think about the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly, the protection of which hindered emergency services and the development of a local hospital in San Bernardino County.  Or what about the threat Endangered Species Act regulation of the Puritan tiger beetle poses to several homeowners in Maryland?  And don’t forget about the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, a recovered species that still receives ESA protection at the cost hundreds of thousands of dollars that could otherwise be devoted to flood control in California.