How will we characterise our age? By the birth of the internet? The rise of China? The first black US president? Perhaps in all those ways. But we could also say, less obviously but perhaps more fundamentally, that ours is the age when the insects disappeared.
Edward O Wilson, America’s greatest naturalist, called invertebrates – the insects, the spiders, the worms, the snails and all their fellows – “the little things that run the world”. He meant that these tiny creatures were at the very base of much of life. For example, in the case of pollination, where bees and other insect pollinators fertilise plants, and enable them to produce fruit and seeds, by transferring pollen between flowers.
In the past five years or so, pollinators, honeybees in particular, have started to vanish in many places, and governments have woken up to the problem, as pollination is worth billions.
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