North Queensland scientist rediscovers world’s largest bee
A CQUniversity scientist is part of a team of experts that have made the "holy grail" of bee discoveries, rediscovering the world's largest bee in Indonesia.
The international team of scientists and conservationists located the single female Wallace's giant bee in the Indonesian island group of North Moluccas in January.
It was found living in an arboreal termites' nest in a tree about 2.5 metres off the ground.
The bee is more than three times longer than the common honey bee, measuring about 49mm with a wingspan of more than 60mm.
It was first discovered by English entomologist Alfred Russell Wallace on the Indonesian island of Bacon, but had been lost to science since 1981.
Biologist and CQUniversity adjunct Professor Environmental Sciences Simon Robson said he was incredibly excited to make the discovery.
"We couldn't believe we actually managed to find it…we had been looking for five days in total, four in the one spot" Prof. Robson said.
"As biologists we're always interested in things that are the largest, the smallest, the fastest, the slowest and its gives us some idea of some of the limits of the biological world and how that might adapt to change."
Professor Robson, who is also an honorary professor at the University of Sydney, said very little was currently known about the giant bee.
"All that we know at the moment is that it makes nests inside termite mounds, it has incredibly large mandibles which collects resin from trees and it lines the nest with that resin which probably acts as an antifungal device … there is a lot to be learnt about that antiseptic" he said.
Professor Robson was with a team organised by Global Wildlife Conservation, a Texas-based organisation that runs a Search for Lost Species program, when the bee was discovered.
Natural history photographer Clay Bolt was the first to take photos and videos of the species after years of research.
"It was absolutely breathtaking to see this 'flying bulldog' of an insect that we weren't sure existed anymore," Mr Bolt said.
"My dream is to now use this rediscovery to elevate this bee to a symbol of conservation in this part of Indonesia."
Professor Robson hoped the discovery would also help to promote the conservation of other rare species in Indonesia.
"The discovery points to the forest of Indonesia as having great important for maintaining biological diversity on a global scale" he said.
"We are hoping to promote conservation, natural history in this important part of the world."