Now the programme makers have a level of technology and skill that enables them to film tiny creatures in their natural environment, so naturally, David Attenborough is on the case. He and his team have made this extraordinary series of 5 programmes (about 50 minutes each) showing different aspects of the life that goes on all around us and under our feet, but that is usually completely unnoticed by us. He casts these invertebrates (that many people see as villains, to be sprayed and swatted out of existence), in a refreshingly positive light - pointing out that if the backboned animals were all to disappear, life on Earth would carry on very well with just the plants and invertebrates, but if the invertebrates were to die out, so would just about everything else. They do so many vital jobs to keep the environment ticking along: recycling waste, turning over the soil, pollinating the plants and so on, that healthy ecosystems depend on them. And when we see these small animals (some less than 0.5 mm) enlarged to a scale where the details of even their faces are clearly visible, they look very beautiful and astonishingly well adapted for the life-styles of their species.
The 5 programmes are: 1) 'Invasion of the Land' which shows how marine invertebrates clambered onto the land about 400 million years ago, and gradually adapted to and populated every suitable environment. 2) 'Taking to the Air' tells how insects began to fly and in some cases became incredibly proficient fliers. 3) 'The Silk Spinners' looks at a variety of invertebrates (not just spiders and silk-worms) that employ silk for many purposes. 4) 'Intimate Relations' examines some of the ways invertebrates interact with other species of plants and animals - both symbiotic and parasitic. 5) 'Supersocieties' focuses on wasps, ants, bees and some sociable spiders, speculating about how social behaviour may have started and showing that hive/nest life is not always as harmonious as we imagine. Finally, there's a very interesting interview with the series producer, Mike Salisbury, who gives us some insights into the triumphs and failures they experienced whilst making the programmes.
It's a fabulous series and I expect it may change a lot of people's opinions about these small animals that swarm under our feet and over our heads (they estimate about 200 million invertebrates to every human being) and that have traditionally been universally despised. As usual, David Attenborough shows us the awe and wonder and persuades us to respect yet another aspect of the natural world. Excellent!