Scientists Rediscover ‘Ultra-Rare’ Blue Bee Believed To Have Become Extinct In Florida

Bee on a flower
cocoparisienne / Pixabay

The “ultra-rare blue calamintha bee” was rediscovered by a researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History recently, according to a news release from the museum.

The bee was first discovered in 2011 with scientists unsure whether the bee still existed. Previously, there were only four known locations where the bee has been known to reside, and they totaled only 16 square miles in Central Florida’s Lake Wales Ridge area.

This past spring, Chase Kimmel, a postdoctoral researcher, miraculously rediscovered the “metallic navy” bee, which is a pivotal step toward species conservation. Kimmel managed to track the species to seven new areas, proving their range is much larger than anyone realized.

Kimmel reportedly spotted the blue bee while he and a volunteer were busy installing a condo near Lake Wales Ridge. Kimmel noticed the bee near Ashe’s calamint, which is an endangered species of flora known to be the calamintha bee’s primary pollen host. They depend on that specific plant for much of their food.

Kimmel said he had considered the possibility of never finding the bee again so he was excited to find it in the field.

On Saturday, CNN reported that Kimmel detailed the discovery, saying that he and the volunteer “observed a shiny little blue bee grabbing the flower and rubbing its head on the top portion of the flower two or three times before moving on to another flower.”

“In reading about this unique behavior we were pretty shocked to see it,” he added.

The researcher first found the bee in March. He took a picture of the captured insect using macro photography and then took it to experts who were able to confirm its species.

Finding the bee in the wild is a good sign for the species’ continued survival, but as CNN pointed out, scientists still know very little about the insect’s habitat needs. Kimmel and his adviser Jaret Daniels have been working on a two-year research project to learn more about the blue bee’s population count as well as their biological habits.

“It is still very rare and can take many hours and days to find it which reinforces how rare it can be. Its presence is highly associated with Ashe’s calamint, so the bee may influence how well the plant is pollinated which can affect the plant’s survivorship,” Kimmel explained.

Unfortunately, despite the bee not being extinct as previously thought, they are still very much in danger. The Lake Wales Ridge area is known to be one of the fastest-disappearing ecosystems in the country.