The world’s largest bee, Wallace’s Giant Bee, last seen in 1981 and thought to be extinct, has been confirmed alive in the wilderness of Indonesia by an international team of scientists and conservationists.
According to a statement published by the University of Sydney on Friday, the search team successfully rediscovered the species in January in the North Moluccas, an island cluster in Indonesia.
With a wingspan of 6 centimetres and a body the size of a human thumb, the bee, formally known as Megachile pluto, was first discovered by English entomologist Alfred Russel Wallace in 1859 and was not observed again until 1981.
Biologists know little about the bee giants except that they have unusually large mandibles to scrape together balls of tree resin and wood to fortify their nests, and that they are relatively solitary animals.
After its last appearance, this “Goliath of bees’’ had remained elusive to scientists despite several expeditions trying to find it.
“Amid such a well-documented global decline in insect diversity, it’s wonderful to discover that his iconic species is still hanging on,’’ said Simon Robson, a member of the search team and a biologist at the University of Sydney.
Before the latest rediscovery, scientists had feared the species was already extinct due to drastic deforestation in its habitat as Indonesia lost 15 per cent of the tree cover between 2001 and 2017, according to Global Forest Watch.