Surprise Survivors: Tortoise & Bee Presumed Extinct Recently Rediscovered

World's Largest Bee Rediscovered in Wild

Finding an endangered or otherwise rare species in the wild can be very challenging for scientists, but hunting down something as small as a bee after almost three decades of presumed extinction?

The world's largest bee, which had not been seen by scientists since 1981, has been rediscovered by a team of conservationists and global researchers in a remote part of Indonesia. Still, nobody had seen it since that rediscovery, and it was once again considered to be a "lost" species that might not even be around anymore.

The natural history photographer who captured the first images of the giant bee described her as a "flying bulldog".

Bolt's visit to Indonesia came as part of Global Wildlife Conservation's Search for Lost Species program. In the study, which builds upon their discovery that bees understand the concept of zero (what?!), the researchers "showed bees can be taught to recognise colours as symbolic representations for addition and subtraction, and that they can use this information to solve arithmetic problems", as explained in a statement from RMIT.

Robin Moore said: "By making the bee a world-famous flagship for conservation, we are confident that the species has a brighter future than if we just let it quietly be collected into oblivion".

With an estimated maximum wingspan of two and a half inches Wallace's Giant Bee is the largest bee on Earth.

At first Wallace's giant bee was elusive.




The giant bee is said to be the size of a human thumb and hasn't been seen since 1981 (illustrative picture).

"To see how attractive and big the species is in real life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible", Bolt said. The world's largest bee faces potential risks that range from insect collectors to the loss of its habitat from palm oil operations and other activity.

A Wallace's giant bee is photographed by Clay Bolt outside of its home inside a termite's nest in the North Moluccas islands of Indonesia. When Bolt and Wyman saw that a mysterious giant bee specimen had sold for $US9,000 ($12,664) on eBay in early 2018, they were met with a new sense of urgency to find the rare bee.

It would be another 120 before the creepy critters were seen again, when entomologist Adam Messer rediscovered them in 1981 on three Indonesian islands.

After connecting with other researchers interested in finding the bee, Bolt and Wyman formed a search party that embarked for Indonesia in January.

As first noted by Wallace, the female giant bees feature unusually big mandibles, and Messer discovered the reason why: these mandibles are used to pluck resin from trees, which is then used to line the inside of the bees' nests. "This bee seems to be very secretive in nature and historically, it has possibly always been somewhat rare", he said.

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