Published: Fri, February 22, 2019
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

Long lost giant bee, the word's biggest, rediscovered in Indonesia

Long lost giant bee, the word's biggest, rediscovered in Indonesia

The world's largest bee has resurfaced after 38 years.

A team of researchers funded by the Global Wildlife Conservation went out to Indonesia with hopes of photographing a Wallace's Giant Bee (otherwise known as Megachile pluto) and they did just that, according to the statement.

Wallace first discovered it in 1858 and described the female bee as "a large, black wasp-like insect, with huge jaws like a stag beetle". The massive bee was rediscovered alive in Indonesia last month, decades after it was last seen. Pointing a torch into the hole, who did they discover peeking out at them but a single female Wallace's giant bee.

"To actually see how handsome and big the species is in life, to hear the sound of its giant wings. was just incredible", said Clay Bolt, a specialist bee photographer who snapped the enormous insect. Little is known about the insect, which has a dark body about 1.5 inches in length - four times bigger than European honeybees. It was first documented in 1858 by British explorer and naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace (he helped Charles Darwin come up with the theory of evolution) and was then not seen again until 1981, Bolt writes in a blog post. "To actually see how attractive 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".

Robin Moore, a conservation biologist with Global Wildlife Conservation, which runs a programme called The Search for Lost Species, said: "We know that putting the news out about this rediscovery could seem like a big risk given the demand, but the reality is that unscrupulous collectors already know that the bee is out there".

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Wallace's giant bees, however, may not even last that long. But that's not the case: Until recently, the last time anyone had reported seeing Wallace's giant bee living in the wild was in 1981.

The discovery, in the Indonesian islands known as the North Moluccas, has got entomologists aflutter at the prospect of more specimens buzzing around the region's forests.

The newly rediscovered Wallace's Giant Bee, also called "Raja ofu", or king of bees, has gained widespread media attention. Females are twice as big as the males. Messer's observations of its behaviors - like how it used its giant jaws to gather resin and wood for its nests - provided some insight, but still, the bee remained generally elusive.

Bolt and one of his teammates, entomologist Eli Wyman, returned to the US after making the discovery and hope to work with researchers and conservation groups in Indonesia to ensure protection for the giant bee, Bolt wrote.

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