The world’s biggest bee spotted in Indonesia after being off the radar for 38 years

Credits : Clay Bolt

A giant Wallace bee – which is the biggest in the world – went off the radar for 38 years.  Lots of people though that the species had become extinct.  However it looks like this this is not the case.  One of these bees has just been spotted in Indonesia perched in a tree. 

A real game of hide-and-seek

Originally discovered by Alfred Russel Wallace in 1858, it was believed that the species was extinct until it was rediscovered in 1981.  The American entomologist, Adam C. Messer came across it in the North Maluku Islands in Indonesia. Since then nothing has been found.  For 38 years there has been no sign of life until one of these bees was spotted recently.  A team of biologists from North America and Australia found this giant insect living inside a termite nest, perched more than two metres from the ground.

It is absolutely astounding to see this “flying bulldog“, this insect that we were no longer sure existed,” stated Clay Bolt, a photographer that participated in the research.  They explained how seeing this bee “pass overhead was simply incredible” and hearing the sound of it’s giant wings vibrating.  We can just imagine!

Females of this species (Megachile pluto) can reach almost 4 cm long and a wingspan of almost 6 cm.  The males are smaller however they are still very big in comparison to other common bees.  They measure around 2.3 cm long and have a wingspan of 3.5 cm.

abeille Wallace
A giant Wallace Bee, in comparison to a European bee. Credits : Clay Bolt

Threatened by extreme deforestation

We know little about this imposing bee except that they use their big mandibules to collect resin and wood for their nests.  However this new sighting could help us learn more about this bee.  Does this bee depend on certain types of plants for pollination? To what degree is their sensory system important?  What is it’s social biology?  These questions could soon be answered.  The positive aspect of this discovery is that other females like this one could still live in the region’s plain forests.

Unfortunately, Indonesia has been threatened by significant deforestation for several year to make room for farming.  Palm tree plantations is one example that has received a lot of attention recently which is contributing to disappearance of many species due to deforestation.  Deforestation is also contributing to greenhouse gas effect.  By sharing this new discovery, researchers hope that despite everything the Indonesian government can be encouraged to take measures that will aim to protect the species and it’s habitat.


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