Lost and Found: The World’s Biggest Bee

When you think of bees, you may think of small, roundish yellow and black fuzzy things that dance around your plants.

This is usually not very far off, especially considering that most bees are between 2 and 21 mm long, with wingspans between 11 and 33 mm. There was once talk about a GIANT bee, but the world hasn’t seen one of those since 1981, and were thought to be extinct. Until now.

The World‚’s Biggest Bee Returns

For the first time since 1981 and after many years of searching, a team of scientists and conservationists have spotted and photographed a living Wallace’s giant bee in the forest of North Moluccas in Indonesia. About the size of a thumb, this female giant bee is four times larger than your average honey bee, measuring 39 mm long with a wingspan of more than 6 cm! Imagine seeing a swarm of these in your garden. Yikes.

Related: Colony Collapse Disorder and the Importance of Bees

Long Mysterious History

The Wallace‚’s giant bee was first discovered in 1859 by Alfred Russel Wallace on the island of Bacan in North Moluccas, Indonesia. Wallace described the bee as a large black wasp-like insect, with immense jaws like a stag-beetle. After Wallace’s initial discovery, there were no further reports of this gigantic bee for over 100 years!

After years of fearing that this species would go extinct before any more would be found, Adam Messer, an American biologist, discovered six nests in 1981. He observed them rigorously and recorded some of their behaviours. This information was vital to the next searches for the Wallace’s giant bee, as scientists now knew to look in termite mounds throughout primary lowland forests.

Get to Know Her

The female Wallace’s giant bee is a black resin bee with very large jaws. These jaws make her look rather terrifying, but don’t worry, she only uses her jaws to collect resin from trees, which she then uses to make termite-proof nests. Her diet consists of nectar and pollen, like the common honey bee.

You’ll never find a infestation of Wallace’s giant bees on your property, and we wouldn’t dream of exterminating such a rare species but not all bees are created equal. If you’re having troubles with your more average, antagonistic bees and wasps, contact us today!