Very big bee not seen in almost four decades rediscovered in the wild

Simon Robson holding the bee specimen

Simon Robson holding the bee specimen

The world's biggest bee, which has been lost to science for nearly 40 years, has been rediscovered in the wild.

Biologists in Indonesia have discovered a single female Wallace's giant bee that was feared extinct for the past 38 years.

He described the female-about as long as an adult human's thumb, and four times larger than a European honeybee-as a "large, black, wasp-like insect, with enormous jaws like a stag beetle".

A big bee that has not been seen in decades has recently been rediscovered in the wild.

Wallace's Giant Bee, which Life Science described as a "nightmare" of a creature, was spotted in the Indonesian province of North Maluku in January.

Clay Bolt, a wildlife photographer, was the first to see the insect, which is named after the British naturalist and explorer Alfred Russel Wallace.

Several specimens of the bee were next found in 1981, but it had not been seen since until the 2019 expedition.

Last year, a Wallace's giant bee specimen sold for more than $9,000 on eBay. The team hopes that raising awareness of Wallace's giant bee that more people will be interested in protecting it.

Robin Moore, a conservation biologist with Global Wildlife Conservation, which runs a programme called The Search for Lost Species, said: "We know that putting 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".

Natural history photographer Clay Bolt makes the first-ever photos of a living Wallace's Giant Bee at its nest, which is found in active termite mounds in the North Moluccas, Indonesia.

The newly rediscovered Wallace's Giant Bee, also called "Raja ofu", or king of bees, has gained widespread media attention.

Bolt and Wyman say they want their discovery to draw attention to the bee - and to the need to protect it.

As has been the case with other historic perceptions about bees, the king bee turned out to be a queen: the females are far larger than the males, which measure less than one inch in length. The bees live up to their reputation.

Clay Bolt, one of the scientists on the expedition, described seeing the "flying bulldog" of an insect in the wild was "breathtaking". 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.

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