Clay Bolt / claybolt.com
You may think that the world's largest bee would be easy to find. But it was not so long ago: The last time someone had reported seeing a Wallace giant living in the wilderness in 1981. It changed in January when the rare bee was discovered on an island Indonesia.
Wallace's giant bee – Megachile pluto – tower over European honey bees. The woman's size has been recorded as at least one and a half long, with a tongue that is almost one inch long. Add to that a couple of gigantic mandibles, and it's a bee like no other.
"It was absolutely amazing to see this" flying bulldog "of an insect we didn't know existed anymore – to have a real proof in front of us in the wild," says natural history photographer Clay Bolt, who was part of a small team seeking out Wallace's giant bee.
The team found a female bee living in a termite living on the side of a tree – the preferred habitat of the big bee. Female Wallace's giant bees use resin and wood to create tunnels and cells in existing beans, carving out their own residential area away from the termites.
"To actually see how beautiful and large the species is in life to hear the sound of its huge wings drumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible," Bolt said.
About this sound: With its discovery, the team made b-roll (!) Video of Wallace's giant bee flying around in a small enclosure, its wings sounding like a deep drone compared to the tall buzzard of honey bees .
It's not uncommon for Wallace's giant to go long periods without being seen by humans. It has been observed only a handful of times since it was discovered in the 1850s by the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. When the bee was rediscovered in 1981, it had been eradicated.
"I've said it's supposed to be eradicated," says Professor Dave Goulson who has a University of Sussex Bee Laboratory. "I was happy to hear that is not the case."
The breakthrough found came on the last day of a five-day trip to Indonesia's northern Molucca islands. Bolt's visit to Indonesia came as part of the Global Wildlife Conservation's Search for Lost Species program. Others on the trip included Princeton University entomologist Eli Wyman; Simon Robson, a biology professor at the University of Sydney in Australia; and Glen Chilton, a professor at Saint Mary's University in Canada.
In addition to his Brobdingnagian size, Wallace's giant bee plays unusually large mandibles, often compared to a deer beetle.
Bis mouthpieces also contain a large lab room; In the early 1980s, the entomologist Adam Catton Messer described that she was looking at a female Wallace's giant bee with her mandibles to scrape resin from a tree and use her labrum and mandibles to roll the resin into a large ball – like the one then bar when it flew back to its nest.
"Messers rediscovering gave us some insight, but we still know nothing about this extraordinary insect," Wyman said, and retrieved the reaction of other experts after the bee was discovered again.
In theory, Goulson said, the great mandibles are similar to the mason bees, which use them to help form balls of clay that shape their nests. But the apical relatives are not as close as impressive as Wallace's giant bee, he added.
Fairs found several of the bees that lived in the mountainous terrain of three islands in the northern molars, near the equator.
The remote site is an important reason why Wallace's giant bee has become so rare, said Goulson, who has written several books on bees. And now he added that the clean remote can help protect it from anyone who wants to enter the hive and sell a rare sample.
Bolt and Wyman say they want their discovery to pay attention to the bee – and the need to protect it. The world's largest bi-facial potential risks stretching from insect collectors to the loss of its habitat from palm oil and other activity.
"Despite a large number of potential settlements, the bee seems to be rare," wrote Messer about his rediscovery in the 1980s. "Local informants had never seen the bee before its rediscovered, even if a particular title, [oh.] Oungu ma koana ," king bee "is based on it."
As has been the case with Other Historical Perceptions of Bees, King Bee turned out to be a Queen: The females are far larger than the males, which measure less than one inch in length.