Giant bees that have not been seen for over a century: an unexpected find

(ORDO NEWS) — Looking at a photo of Wallace’s giant bee, it’s hard to believe that for a long time it remained elusive for scientists!

Huge, four times the size of ordinary honey bees, black insects are most similar to the gangsters of the bee world. Surprisingly, before you – the very first photographs of Wallace’s giant bee (Megachile pluto), since since 1981 these creatures have been literally lost to science.

How such large insects managed to hide from people, no one understands. The wingspan of females reaches six centimeters – this is an absolute record among bees!

They live in termite tree mounds on several northern islands of Maluku in Indonesia and use their huge mandibles to collect tree resin. This resin protects the nest from destruction and also prevents termites from entering the “bee” part of the hive.

The bee was first described by the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace in 1858, giving her his last name. And only after more than a hundred years it was re-discovered by the entomologist Adam Messer.

This happened in 1981. He found six nests on the Bakana Islands, which gave him unique information about the nesting and physiology of these giant bees. And… everything. Since then, there have been no new observations.

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This is partly due to the location of Wallace’s bee habitat. The northern islands of Maluku are far from civilization, especially those parts where bees live. Late last month, a group of four explorers traveled to Indonesia to finally find the elusive creatures.

The task was not an easy one: for five days, scientists searched for huge termite mounds and searched each one several times in the hope that the bees potentially living inside would give themselves away.

Finally, on the last day, their guide discovered a mound with an unusually low number of termites living in it – it was there that they managed to find black giants.

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However, this is where the real work is just beginning. Researchers know next to nothing about these amazing insects, especially about the social biology within this particular species, a hallmark of all bees. The international team is now working with Indonesian colleagues to try to find other nesting sites for Wallace’s bees.


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