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Wallace's Giant Bee - Megachile pluto
Wallace's Giant Bee - Megachile pluto

[Image: Stavenn_Megachile_pluto.jpg]

Scientific classification
Kingdom:  Animalia
Phylum:  Euarthropoda
Class:  Insecta
Order:  Hymenoptera
Family:  Megachilidae
Genus:  Megachile
Subgenus:  Megachile (Callomegachile)
Species:  Megachile pluto  B. Smith, 1860

Megachile pluto
, also known as Wallace's giant bee, is a very large Indonesian resin bee. It is the largest known living bee species. It was believed to be extinct until several specimens were discovered in 1981; there were again no further confirmed sightings until two were collected and sold on eBay in 2018. A live female was found and filmed for the first time in 2019.

Wallace's giant bee is a black resin bee with well developed and large jaws. The species exhibits strong sexual dimorphism: females may reach a length of 38 mm (1.5 in), with a wingspan of 63.5 mm (2.5 in), but males only grow to about 23 mm (0.9 in) long. Only females have large jaws. M. pluto is believed to be the largest living bee species, and remains the largest extant bee species described. Wallace's giant bee is easily distinguished from other bees due to its large size and jaws, but also a notable white band on the abdomen.

[Image: MTU1MDY5Mzc3Ng==]
One of the first images of a living Wallace's Giant Bee, Megachile pluto. The world's largest bee M. pluto is about four times larger than a European honeybee.

Distribution and habitat
Wallace's giant bee has only been reported from three islands of the North Moluccas in Indonesia: Bacan, Halmahera and Tidore. Very little is known about its distribution and habitat requirements, although it is thought that it is restricted to primary lowland forests. The islands have become home to oil palm plantations that now occupy much of the former native habitat. This has caused the International Union for the Conservation of Nature(IUCN) to label this species as Vulnerable.

Discovery and rediscovery
The species was originally collected by Alfred Russel Wallace in 1858, and given the common name "Wallace's giant bee"; it is also known as the "giant mason bee". It was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1981 by Adam C. Messer, an American entomologist, who found six nests on the island of Bacan and other nearby islands. The bee is among the 25 "most wanted lost" species that are the focus of Global Wildlife Conservation's "Search for Lost Species" initiative. After 1981, the bee was not observed in the wild for the next 37 years. Two specimens were collected in Indonesia in 2018, one on Bacan in February and the other on Halmahera in September, and subsequently sold on eBay, thus highlighting the lack of protection that is afforded to this rare species. A single female was found living in a termite nest in 2019. This specimen was filmed and photographed before being released.

Wallace's giant bees build communal nests inside active nests of the tree-dwelling termite Microcerotermes amboinensis, which may have served to hide their existence even from island residents. The bee uses tree resin to build compartments inside the termite nest, which protects its galleries. Female bees leave their nests repeatedly to forage for resin, which comes frequently from anisoptera thurifera. The bee's large jaws assist in resin gathering: the female makes large balls of resin which is held between the jaws. The association of the bee with the termite may be obligate.

'Flying bulldog': world's largest bee refound

February 21, 2019

[Image: monstermissi.jpg]
A giant bee thought to be extinct has been found by scientists in Indonesia.

The world's largest bee—a giant insect roughly the size of a human thumb—has been rediscovered in a remote part of Indonesia in its first sighting in nearly 40 years, researchers said Thursday.

Despite its conspicuous size, no one had observed Wallace's giant bee—discovered in the 19th century by British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace and nicknamed the "flying bulldog"—in the wild since 1981, the Global Wildlife Conservation said.

"To actually see how beautiful and big the species is in life, to hear the sound of its giant wings... was just incredible," said Clay Bolt, a specialist bee photographer who snapped the enormous insect.

"My dream is now to elevate this bee to a symbol of conservation in this part of Indonesia, a point of pride for the locals there."

The bee (full name Megachile pluto), which lives in the Indonesian island region of North Moluccas, makes its nest in termite mounds, using its large fang-like mandibles to collect sticky resin to protect its home from the termites.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the bee as "vulnerable", meaning that while its numbers are relatively solid, the remoteness of its population makes it hard to study.

Several previous expeditions to the region where the bee lives failed to spot it.

Indonesia is home to an abundant variety of flora and fauna but there are fears for some animal and insect communities as forests being cut down for agriculture threaten many species' natural habitat.

"I hope this rediscovery will spark future research that will give us a deeper understanding of the life history of this very unique bee and inform any future efforts to protect it from extinction," said Eli Wyman, an entomologist at Princeton University who accompanied Bolt on the trip.

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