The world's largest bee has been re-discovered, and it's enough to give you nightmares
Back in the day, there used to be loads of movies all about animals that were gigantic. You had King Kong, the story of a colossal ape, Them! which was all about huge, mutated ants, and The Deadly Mantis, which was all about ... well, to be honest, you can probably guess that one.
In these cheesy stories, massive creatures were either irradiated due to exposure to nuclear material or dangerous chemicals, bred to be gigantic by man, or were long lost species from some primaeval epoch, rediscovered by humans after being dormant for millennia.
Until now, giant bugs and creepy-crawlies were something that belonged in the realms of science fiction and fantasy. But now scientists have managed to discover a gigantic beast in the remote islands of Indonesia. This thing is as long an adult's thumb. The name? Wallace’s giant bee.
After what was thought to be more than 38 years of extinction, the species was rediscovered when a search team of North American and Australian biologists found a single female living inside a termites’ nest in a tree, more than two metres off the ground.
The species was first discovered back in 1858 after the British explorer and naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace found it on the tropical Indonesian island of Bacan. However, the large bee remained enigmatic, and little is still known about its life cycle. The species was not spotted again until 1981 after entomologist Adam Messer rediscovered it on a trio of Indonesian islands. Sadly, it is threatened by deforestation in the region, as well as collectors who target them for their immense size.
Natural history photographer Clay Bolt, who took the picture of the giant bug, stated: "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. To actually see how beautiful 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."
Meanwhile, conservationist biologist Robin Moore stated: "We know that putting the news out about this rediscovery could seem like a big risk given the demand, but the reality is that unscrupulous collectors already know that the bee is out there. By making the bee a world-famous flagship for conservation we are confident that the species has a brighter future than if we just let it quietly be collected into oblivion."
It's good news that the Wallace bee has been found again, but this is still a sobering story about just how many creatures have edged closer and closer to extinction over the years, and why it remains our responsibility to protect them.