The world’s largest bee, almost the size of an adult thumb, was last seen in 1981. According to Global Wildlife Conservation, it was discovered by Alfred Wallace in 1858 and he nicknamed it the ‘Flying Bulldog’.
After fears of its extinction for 38 years, it has been rediscovered in the Indonesian Islands of the North Moluccas.
A research team of North American and Australian biologists found a single female Wallace’s Giant Bee (Megachile pluto) living inside a termites’ nest in a tree, more than two metres off the ground.
Clay Bolt, a specialist photographer who captured the first photos of this bee alive, was interviewed in a Guardian article dated 15th Febuary 2019, saying: “It was absolutely breathtaking to see this ‘flying bulldog’ of an insect that we weren’t sure existed any more. 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.”
This bee can grow up to four times larger than a honey bee and has jaws like a stag beetle! Unfortunately, due to its elusiveness, not much is known about its life cycle, such as its habit of making nests out of termite mounds.
We may never find out more about this bee due to the threats it faces from human activity; its habitats suffer under deforestation. According to the World Resources Institute in 2019, deforestation has been declining in the last few years in Indonesia, however ‘despite the overall decline in deforestation at the national level, several key provinces in Indonesia with primary forests and peatland continued to show increases in forest loss.’
In addition to its habitat threats, its size and rarity makes the bee popular among collectors. There is no current legal protection for the ‘flying bulldog’ but, hopefully, this can be changed.