Wallace’s Giant Bee, Megachile pluto, has been spotted in Indonesia after disappearing for almost 38 years. The bee is third on the “25 Most Wanted Species” that has been found since the list was released in 2017. Following the discovery of Jackson’s Climbing Salamander and the Fernandina Giant Tortoise, the discovery of this bee shows positive signs that we may be able to bring back many endangered species.
The last known sighting of the bee was in 1981 by American entomologist, Adam C. Messer. He found six nests in the same area in Indonesia, so he speculated that the bee must be native to that particular group of islands. The bee was first discovered by Alfred Russell Wallace, whom the insect is named after, during his expedition to the Malay Archipelago (now Indonesia and Malaysia) in 1859.
For the first time in more than a century, the Wallace’s giant bee has been photographed in the wild https://t.co/qymMfUtpku— National Geographic (@NatGeo) February 21, 2019
A team of entomologists, wildlife photographers, and local animal lovers set out on an expedition to find these “missing” species. On the North Moluccas Islands of Indonesia, the team discovered an interesting nest that looked like a termite’s mound, but it had bee-sized holes. At the request of the team, one of the guides, Iswan, climbed up to investigate, and what he discovered was absolutely amazing.
The group discovered a Wallace’s Giant Bee inside the nest, and Clay Bolt, one of the photographers, directed his headlamp into the hole to take a look. They waited two hours for the bee to emerge, and eventually, after they gently tapped her with a blade of grass, she walked right out and posed for a picture. The bee is the size of a walnut with a massive jaw and a wide wingspan.
Gizmodo did a nice job with this edit of the rediscovery footage. https://t.co/K6m9G0tpNR— Clay Bolt (@cbnatphoto) February 27, 2019
With the bee’s discovery, the team hopes to start conservation efforts for it; it’s currently not a protected species. The insect is defined as “vulnerable” despite its rarity. Robin Moore, leader of the Global Conservation Society’s Lost Species program, suspects that this is because its habitat is still thriving, data on population is not sufficient, and dead specimens are still being traded—one went for $9,100 on eBay last year. With more efforts to protect the species, conservationists will be able to protect it from trade and increase its numbers.