Lately, I've been noticing a new entomology meme—I'm calling it “the windshield anecdote.” It takes the following form: someone, always an experienced naturalist, reports that they were driving on a familiar road, and noticed at the end of the trip that the windshield was almost free of bug splatter. Then, the realization hits—bugs are disappearing, and the implications for the entire ecosystem are dire. I don't know how many windshield anecdotes I've seen lately on Face-book, through entomological list servers, and in conversation with various people, but the answer is almost certainly “more than expected by chance.”

So, naturally, I googled the subject, and sure enough, the windshield anecdote is a pretty common literary trope among science communicators as well. For example, on the news commentary site Grist, I found a 2004 article entitled “The Windshield Beneath My Wings,” an account of an attempt...

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