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