North Queensland scientist rediscovers world's largest bee

An image of a living Wallace’s giant bee compared to a honeybee

As long as an adult thumb, with jaws like a stag beetle and four times larger than a honeybee, Wallace's giant bee is not exactly inconspicuous.

Let's start with the news that sounds like it might make for the best horror movie... the world's largest bee has been found, after we've spent the last 38 years wondering where the heck it went... aka The Return of the Giant Bee.

On Thursday, they released photographs and video of a nest and its queen, saying their find was the "holy grail" of species discoveries.

"My goal was to be the first person to make a photo of a living Wallace's Giant Bee and I had achieved that goal".

"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", said Clay Bolt, the photographer who captured the first image of the insect. The species, Megachile pluto, also known as Wallace's giant bee, is around four times bigger than the European honeybee.

Mr Bolt continued: "To actually see how handsome 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".

The team set off on their expedition last month, retracing the footsteps of Alfred Russel Wallace - who discovered the bee - through Indonesia to find the long lost insect. When the bee was last rediscovered in 1981, it had been presumed extinct.

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With an estimated maximum wingspan of two and a half inches Wallace's Giant Bee is the largest bee on Earth.

Bolt teamed up with entomologist Eli Wyman and convinced Global Wildlife Conservation, a nonprofit group that sends out search parties to hunt for "lost" species - animals that haven't been spotted in at least a decade- to add Wallace's Giant Bee to their list.

The bee was not seen again by scientists until 1981, when Adam Messer, an American entomologist, rediscovered it on three Indonesian islands.

Bolt and Wyman say they want their discovery to draw attention to the bee - and to the need to protect it. Females are twice as big as the males.

"My dream is to now use this rediscovery to elevate this bee to a symbol of conservation in this part of Indonesia", nature photographer Clay Bolt's statement reads within the Friday release.

Researchers and conservationists with the group say they stumbled upon the female specimen living inside a termites' nest in a tree almost two meters off the ground. During this time, he documented some aspects of its behavior-like how it builds nests inside termite mounds.

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