Just when you think a species might bee extinct, nature proves us humans don't know anything.
A team of researchers and scientists went out to find the world's largest bee, first classified in 1858 by British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace as Megachile pluto, as part of Global Wildlife Conservation's (GWC) Search for Lost Species programme.
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They set off into Indonesia's North Moluccas islands, according to a statement, where they spent four days perusing the nests of termites to look for Wallace's giant bee - this is where the critter is known to build burrows, until they found a female on the fifth day.
The bee hasn't been seen in 38 years, and became the second rediscovery of GWC's top 25 most wanted species.
“It was absolutely breathtaking to see this ‘flying bulldog’ of an insect that we weren’t sure existed anymore, to have real proof right there in front of us in the wild,” said Clay Bolt, a natural history photographer specialising in bees, who took the first photos and video of the species alive after spending years researching the right habitat type with trip partner, Eli Wyman.
“To actually see how beautiful and big the species is in life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible. My dream is to now use this rediscovery to elevate this bee to a symbol of conservation in this part of Indonesia, and a point of pride for the locals there.”
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They only managed to find a single female giant bee, but it has sparked hope that there might be larger populations on the islands and that more funding will be made available to study this little-known bee. The species is also threatened by the onslaught of deforestation in these Indonesian islands, destroying the rare animals' habitat, as well as illegal collectors.
“We know that by GWC helping the search team put the news out about this rediscovery could seem like a big risk given the demand, but the reality is that unscrupulous collectors already know that the bee is out there,” said Robin Moore, GWC’s senior director of digital content and media and Search for Lost Species lead.
“The bee’s protection moving forward is going to rely first on the appropriate government officials and stakeholders knowing that the bee even exists, and then their willingness to help protect it. 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.”
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