THAT’S a bee!

February 22, 2019 • 7:30 am

JAC: In lieu of Reader’s Wildlife Photos today, I’ll take a break and importune you to keep sending me photos (I have a reasonable backlog, but I get nervous. . . .). In its place Greg has contributed a short piece about an enormous bee just rediscovered after several decades.

by Greg Mayer

There are many rare species, especially among invertebrates, that would not be encountered very often, even if they were not in decline. It is thus hard to know some species’ conservation status. Wallace’s Giant Bee (Megachile pluto) has not been seen since 1981, but the New York Times reported on Thursday that it has been rediscovered on one of the islands in its Northern Moluccas range. [Be sure to click on the photo, to get the full effect.]

Wallace’s Giant bee, with a honeybee for scale. Photo by Clay Bolt from The New York Times.

Note the insect in the upper left of the picture. “That’s not a bee.” The insect below it– “THAT’S a bee.”

The species had also not been seen between its discovery by Alfred Russel Wallace in 1859 and 1981, so it is perhaps not surprising that it was some time until a third encounter. Simon Robson, of the University of Sydney, reports that only a single individual was found, and photographed and filmed by Clay Bolt. They were part of a team that was part of an effort to search for other species that have not been seen for sometime. A previously unreported specimen of the Giant Bee was sold last year for $9100 on eBay, so there is concern that a market could develop that might make this apparently naturally rare species artificially rarer. That, combined with ongoing deforestation in Indonesia, creates concern for the species’ future.

JAC: I’ve added one photograph (with credits) that I found on another site:

Photograph of a specimen of Wallace’s Giant Bee © NJ Vereecken In Wildlife

More for Blasphemy Day

May 10, 2017 • 1:00 pm

by Greg Mayer

Following up on the theme for the day, the New York Times reports that in Indonesia, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the governor of Jakarta, has been convicted of blasphemy against Islam, and has been immediately placed in prison to begin his two year sentence while his lawyers appeal the case. Basuki, a Christian and ethnic Chinese, had succeeded to the governorship after his political ally, Joko Widodo, a Muslim, was elected president. Basuki was widely expected to be elected to the governorship outright, until Islamists argued that the Quran forbade Muslims from voting for non-Muslims.

His offense was arguing that a particular Quranic passage could be interpreted in a more enlightened manner than in the way his opponents interpreted it. From an earlier Times article:

[In an address to fishermen] Mr. Basuki lightheartedly cited a verse of the Quran that warns Muslims against taking Christians and Jews as allies. He said at the time that given Indonesia’s transition to democracy in 1999, it was perfectly acceptable for Muslim voters to choose a Christian in the election for governor in February.

A five judge panel has unanimously found that he’s guilty, evidently confirming that the Quran does indeed forbid Muslims from voting for non-Muslims. One of the groups that demanded Basuki be punished for his blasphemy was Hizb ut-Tahrir, which the Times describes as a group that

… rejects democratic governance and says it aims to create a Pan-Islamic state among predominantly Muslim countries, by force if necessary. The group has been tolerated in Indonesia despite openly rejecting the secular, democratically elected government and the pluralist, multireligious national ideology, known as Pancasila.

Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian human rights researcher, summed it up:

“It’s a sad day, and it’s frightening … If the governor of Indonesia’s largest and most complex city, and who is an ally of the Indonesian president, can be brought down and humiliated this way, what will happen to normal Indonesian citizens?”

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JAC: Let me add here that Muslim apologists like Reza Aslan always point to Indonesia as an example of an “enlightened” Muslim country.