World's largest bee finally found after going missing for 38 years

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It is four times bigger than a regular honeybee, and it was thought to be extinct, but a determined nature photographer has found the world's biggest bee on an Indonesian island.

The bee's disappearing act was foiled by an intrepid and determined search team of North American and Australian biologists who wanted to figure out once and for all whether the bee still existed.The Guardian reports that the scientists found the answer in a termite's nest in a tree, where a single female Wallace's giant bee had set up a home. Bolt's visit to Indonesia came as part of Global Wildlife Conservation's Search for Lost Species program.

The bee, which photographer Clay Bolt described as a "flying bulldog" calling the entire experience of snapping the first photo of the newly-rediscovered bee "absolutely breathtaking", which is exactly what someone who saw a flying bulldog would say. He described the female bee as "a large, black wasp-like insect, with vast jaws like a stag beetle".

"To actually see how attractive 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", Bolt said.

Wallace, who co-developed the theory of evolution with Charles Darwin, described the bee as, "a large black wasp-like insect, with enormous jaws like a stag-beetle".

Currently, there is no legal protection addressing trade in the endangered Wallace's giant bee.

Unfortunately for scientists and bee-lovers, not a single one of them has been seen since 1981.

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Wallace's giant bees, however, may not even last that long.

In addition to its Brobdingnagian size, Wallace's giant bee sports unusually large mandibles, which are often compared to a stag beetle's.

In January 2019, a group retraced Wallace's steps and journeyed to Indonesia to see if they could find the bee.

Little is known about these elusive insects' habits. After doing a victory dance, Bolt photographed and filmed the bee.

He said female bees appear to be "very docile", and that unlike social honeybees, they do not tend to sting.

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. The world's largest bee faces potential risks that range from insect collectors to the loss of its habitat from palm oil operations and other activity.

As has been the case with other historic perceptions about bees, the king bee turned out to be a queen: the females are far larger than the males, which measure less than one inch in length.

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