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Alfred Russel Wallace’s giant bee turns out not to be extinct

Stavenn Megachile pluto.jpg
Megachile pluto, world’s largest bee/
Stavenn  (CC BY-SA 3.0 )

As recently feared. The world’s largest bee was last seen in 1981 but was recently spotted on a termite mound:

But on a mission to search for the bee in Indonesia, a team of naturalists found a single female hanging out near a termite mound, they announced yesterday (February 21) in a statement. Carolyn Wilke, “Image of the Day: Seeing is Bee-lieving” at The Scientist

Here’s the statement:

In 1858, famous British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace discovered Wallace’s giant bee on his last day exploring the tropical Indonesian island of Bacan. He described the female bee, which is about as long as an adult human’s thumb and about four times larger than a European honeybee, as “a large black wasp-like insect, with immense jaws like a stag-beetle.” The bee wasn’t seen again until 1981, when entomologist Adam Messer rediscovered it on three Indonesian islands and was able to observe some of the species’ behavior, including how it uses its giant mandibles to gather resin and wood for its nests. Since then, other teams have been out looking for the bee, with no luck.

“Messer’s rediscovery gave us some insight, but we still know next to nothing about this extraordinary insect,” said trip member and bee expert Eli Wyman, an entomologist at Princeton University, and formerly at the American Museum of Natural History, which has a single historical specimen of Wallace’s giant bee. “I hope this rediscovery will spark future research that will give us a deeper understanding of the life history of this very unique bee and inform any future efforts to protect it from extinction.”More.

They’re hoping to make the bee a symbol of conservation in Indonesia.

Many life forms have survived millions of years by staying out of the way of possible trouble. It’s interesting that they were actually looking for the bee. 

See also: Assumed extinct, tree kangaroo reappears


Extinction (or maybe not): New Scientist offers five “Lazarus species”

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