Last spotted back in 1981, the first example of Wallace’s giant bee has been found in nearly four decades amidst the forests of Indonesia. According to details provided by the CBC, the walnut-sized bee has been absent from the historical and biological record since 1981, and the species — Megachile pluto— was thought to have been extinct.
A modest party of scientists and conservationists located the bee’s nest inside of a rotten tree in the forests that sprawl across the North Moluccas islands. Nature photographer Clay Bolt, an American who just so happened to be part of the expedition responsible for confirming the existence of the massive bee, said that it was “very good news” to have discovered the specimen alive in its natural habitat.
The enormous bee was first spotted by local guide Iswan, who quickly scaled a tree bearing a termite mound — one complete with a small hole the size such that a bee might have used it. His suspicions were quickly confirmed, and Iswan quickly fell back to the ground to report that something was indeed inside, whether it be a bee or a snake.
Bolt, upon further inspection of the termite mound, “saw the bee’s face looking back at me.” He described the encounter as an “extraordinary moment.”
Describing the find as something that he had been in search of “for about nine years,” Clay Bolt would detail that he had first been enthralled by Wallace’s giant bee after having seen one of a few existent specimens by Eli Wyman of the American Museum of Natural History. The bee was also cataloged on the Global Wildlife Conservation Society’s list of “25 most wanted species,” as part of its Search for Lost Species initiative — largely due to the combined lobbying efforts of Wyman and Bolt.
As Live Science details, the “nightmare” bee was last documented in depth by University of Georgia entomologist Adam Messer, a man who provided many of the details regarding Megachile pluto that are still held as canonical today. While there is a distinct dearth of data on Wallace’s giant bee, the general understanding of the species is that they are approximately 1.5 inches in length, and bear large, prominent jaws. Females can boast a rather impressive wingspan of 2.5 inches, and males are slightly smaller.
These are the first images of a live Wallace's giant bee, a species not seen by scientists for almost four decades. https://t.co/y8fbmYPWqZ
— Natural History Museum (@NHM_London) February 21, 2019
The species was discovered — and first documented — by entomologist Alfred Russell Wallace, and of course, the bee then adopted his namesake. Wallace was also famous for having independently derived the theory of evolution via natural selection concurrently to Charles Darwin, per the CBC — though the latter was far more successful in indelibly making his mark on the history books with the theory.