Imagine being the very first person ever to see a butterfly, a beetle or a wasp. Imagine the sense of wonder at a world so wide that it contains not just undiscovered species, genera or families but entire orders of life yet to be named. Carl Linnaeus must have had such a feeling 250 years ago as he was sorting recently discovered plants and animals into the taxonomy he had invented. So probably did E. M. Walker, who in 1914 was the first to describe rock crawlers (Grylloblattodea), bringing the number of orders in the insect class to 30.
Most entomologists thought that was the final total: although there may be millions of insect species still to identify (about 1.2 million have been named so far), for nearly a century we have assumed that every newfound species will fall into just those 30 basic categories. To biologists, the natural world no longer seemed as wide and as wild as it once did. But in June 2001 one of us (Zompro) received bits of amber that would change the way we look at the insect world, giving us a taste of the old joy of discovery--and renewing our awe at the variety of life.