You might think the world’s biggest bee would be easy to find. But that’s not the case: Until recently, the last time anyone had reported seeing a Wallace’s giant bee living in the wild was in 1981. That changed in January, when the rare bee was spotted on an island of Indonesia.
The Wallace’s giant bee — Megachile pluto — towers over European honeybees. The female’s size has been recorded as at least an inch and a half long, with a tongue that’s nearly an inch long. Add to that a pair of gigantic mandibles, and it’s a bee like no other.
“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 natural history photographer Clay Bolt, who was part of a small team that sought out the Wallace’s giant bee.
The team found a female bee living in a termite nest on the side of a tree — the large bee’s preferred habitat. Female Wallace’s giant bees use resin and wood to create tunnels and cells in existing nests, carving out their own living space away from the termites.
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