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Protecting the Spineless from Extinction

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."

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John Nielsen
John Nielsen covers environmental issues for NPR. His reports air regularly on NPR's award-winning news magazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition. He also prepares documentaries for the NPR/National Geographic Radio Expeditions series, which is heard regularly on Morning Edition. Nielsen also occasionally serves as the substitute host for several NPR News programs.