After nearly 40 years of thinking that the world’s biggest bee has gone extinct, scientists found them on an island in Indonesia. The last time it was spotted was in 1981 and was rediscovered just last month.
It has been decades since the Wallace’s giant bee was seen alive, and for 38 years, the species was believed to be already extinct. In October 2018, a group of researchers set out to Indonesia in hopes of searching for the giant bee as well as the other species described by Alfred Russel Wallace.
After much planning, the team went to Indonesia and there searched for tree-dwelling termite mounds, as those are known to be where the giant bees nest. The team trekked for days to no avail, but on the last day they spotted a termite mound that appeared to have a hole in it, and sure enough, they caught sight of the giant bee for the first time after nearly four decades.
Wallace’s Giant Bee
The world’s largest bee is a black, wasp-like insect that was discovered by Alfred Russel Wallace in 1859 along with about a thousand other species. He described it to be as long as a human thumb that had jaws like those of a stag beetle. As the world’s largest bee, it grows to about 4 centimeters in body length and has a wingspan of over 7.5 centimeters.
It is listed as one of the 25 Most Wanted lost species by the nonprofit organization Global Wildlife Conservation, and with the rediscovery of the species, the researchers are hoping to spark more efforts to protect their habitat from deforestation.
“But no matter what, just knowing that this bee’s giant wings go thrumming through this ancient Indonesian forest helps me feel that, in a world of so much loss, hope and wonder still do exist,” said Clay Bolt, natural history and conservation photographer.