WALLACE'S GIANT BEE

You may have already seen one of the many news reports about the recent ‘rediscovery’ of Wallace's Giant Bee, the largest species of bee on planet Earth. Well, it never really went missing as there have been a number of sightings over the years since 1859 when Alfred Russel Wallace discovered it on Bacan Island. In fact one of our experts, George Beccaloni (a very experienced entomologist), is 95% sure he saw one in October last year. It flew across the bow of the Ombak Putih about four metres away from him when the boat was moored in a bay near the coast of Obi Laut island. The bee has been recorded from many islands in the region including Tidore, Halmahera, Bacan and Obi, and it is probably not very rare – just very, very difficult to spot. George will certainly be searching for it on the two cruises he will be doing this year (Ambon to Ternate 16-27 Sept and Ternate to Sorong 1-12 October), so if you are on one of these trips you never know your luck...!

Wallace only collected a single specimen of this species (a female – the photo below is his actual specimen). Females are the larger sex and measure 39mm in length, with a wingspan of 63mm. Unlike the males, they have huge jaws which they use to collect tree resin and wood fibres. They mix these together and use the paste to line their nest burrows, which they excavate in arboreal termite nests. The mixture hardens and keeps the termites out of the bee's nest. A good account of the recent sighting of the bee (which was notable as it was the first time that a living specimen had been photographed and filmed) can be seen here https://www.globalwildlife.org/2019/02/21/rediscovering-wallaces-giant-bee/


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