The world’s largest bee, last seen by a scientist in 1981 and was thought to have gone extinct, has been rediscovered on the islands of North Maluku.
A search team of North American and Australian biologists found a single female Wallace’s giant bee (Megachile pluto) living inside a termites’ nest in a tree more than two metres off the ground in January 2019.
The bee was documented and released.
“It was absolutely breathtaking to see this ‘flying bulldog’ of an insect that we weren’t sure existed any more,” said Clay Bolt, a specialist photographer who obtained the first images of the species alive. “To actually see how beautiful and big the species is in life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible.”
The rediscovery of a sole female raises hopes that the region’s forests still harbour this species.
The giant bee – the female can measure nearly 4cm in length – first became known to science in 1858 when British explorer and naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace discovered it on the tropical Indonesian island of Bacan. He described the female bee as “a large, black wasp-like insect, with immense jaws like a stag beetle”.
The insect’s habitat is threatened by massive deforestation for agriculture in Indonesia, and its size and rarity make it a target for collectors. There is, at present, no legal protection concerning trading of Wallace’s giant bee.
Source: The Guardian
Photo: Clay Bolt