World's biggest bee, thought extinct, rediscovered in Indonesia

Bee expert Eli Wyman holds a Wallace’s giant bee. The bee was soon released

After going missing almost four decades ago, a Wallace's giant bee - roughly four times bigger than your average honeybee, with jaws that would make a stag beetle jealous - has been found by a team of North American and Australian biologists on the Indonesian islands of the North Moluccas.

As part of a project to rediscover lost species around the globe, four entomologists and photographers scoured the North Moluccas in the Indonesian islands for Wallace's giant bee (Megachile pluto). He described the female bee as "a large, black wasp-like insect, with huge jaws like a stag beetle".

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

A documentary film about Wallace's giant bee is now in production.

In January, a team followed in Wallace's footsteps on a journey through Indonesia in an attempt to find and photograph the bee.

"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", according to Clay Bolt, a natural history photographer specializing in bees.

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Eli Wyman, who joined Mr Bolt on the trip, added: 'To actually see how lovely 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. The species, Megachile pluto, also known as Wallace's giant bee, is around four times bigger than the European honeybee.

Named after the scientist who made the discovery, the insect was first seen in 1858 by British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace on the tropical Indonesian island of Bacan. The team hopes that raising awareness of Wallace's giant bee that more people will be interested in protecting it.

Environmental group, Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), which has launched a worldwide hunt for "lost species", supported the trip.

Last year, a Wallace's giant bee specimen sold for more than $9,000 on eBay.

In 1981, the last time the bee was seen, American entomologist Adam Messer rediscovered it in Indonesia. Females are twice as big as the males. 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.

Alfred Russell Wallace, the discoverer and namesake of the bee, described the insect as "a large black wasp-like insect, with huge jaws like a stag-beetle", according to a copy of his journals that were obtained by Bolt.

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