Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

World's Largest Bee Rediscovered in Indonesia

Popular
World's biggest bee

A giant bee the size of an adult thumb was found alive for the first time in nearly 40 years, The New York Times reported Thursday.


The sighting, by a team of wildlife conservationists this January, proves that the world's largest bee had not gone extinct since it was last documented by scientists 38 years ago, though its habitat in a group of Indonesian islands called the North Moluccas is threatened by deforestation. The team recorded the bee on photo and video for the first time.

"It was absolutely breathtaking to see this 'flying bulldog' of an insect that we weren't sure existed any more," conservation photographer Clay Bolt, who took the first pictures of the living female bee, said, according to The Guardian. "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."

Wallace's Giant Bee, scientific name Megachile pluto, was made known to Western science by Alfred Russel Wallace, an English entomologist who worked with Charles Darwin on the theory of evolution. Wallace documented the bee, which now bears his name, on an expedition in 1859, according to The New York Times.

The bee was next seen by scientists more than 100 years later when entomologist Adam Messer observed multiple Wallace's Giant Bees in 1981 and took specimens back to museums in New York and London. Messer noted that they use their large jaws to scrape wood and tree resin into balls to make stronger nests. There have been several other attempts to document the bee, but none have proven successful until now.

"I personally know of at least five attempts to find the bee," Bolt told The New York Times.

This particular attempt was partly funded by the group Global Wildlife Conservation, which is searching for 25 lost species including the bee and the Fernandina Galápagos Tortoise, which was sighted for the first time in more than 100 years this Sunday.

The scientists involved with the search were partly concerned that announcing the bee's survival would bring it to the attention of collectors, and, because of this, decided not to announce exactly what island they found it on. Last year, a specimen of the insect was sold on eBay for $9,100.

"If you can get that much money for an insect, that encourages people to go and find them," team member and University of Sydney biologist Dr. Simon Robson told The New York Times.

However, the team agreed that making the announcement opened up important conservation opportunities.

"We know that putting the news out about this rediscovery could seem like a big risk given the demand, but the reality is that unscrupulous collectors already know that the bee is out there," Global Wildlife Conservation biologist Robin Moore said, according to The Guardian. "By making the bee a world-famous flagship for conservation we are confident that the species has a brighter future than if we just let it quietly be collected into oblivion."

The region of Indonesia where the bees are found lost seven percent of its forest from 2001 to 2017, according to Global Forest Watch data reported by The New York Times.

"Amid such a well-documented global decline in insect diversity it's wonderful to discover that this iconic species is still hanging on," Robson said in a University of Sydney press release.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Once the virus escapes into the air inside a building, you have two options: bring in fresh air from outside or remove the virus from the air inside the building. Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

By Shelly Miller

The vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs indoors, most of it from the inhalation of airborne particles that contain the coronavirus. The best way to prevent the virus from spreading in a home or business would be to simply keep infected people away. But this is hard to do when an estimated 40% of cases are asymptomatic and asymptomatic people can still spread the coronavirus to others.

Read More Show Less
California Senator Kamala Harris endorses Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at a campaign rally at Renaissance High School in Detroit, Michigan on March 9, 2020. JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made a historic announcement Tuesday when he named California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate in the 2020 presidential election.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view taken on August 8, 2020 shows a large patch of leaked oil from the MV Wakashio off the coast of Mauritius. STRINGER / AFP / Getty Images

The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.

On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.

France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.

The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.

"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."

Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.

By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.

The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.

"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.

While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.

"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.

Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.

Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.

A northern mockingbird on June 24, 2016. Renee Grayson / CC BY 2.0

Environmentalists and ornithologists found a friend in a federal court on Tuesday when a judge struck down a Trump administration attempt to allow polluters to kill birds without repercussions through rewriting the Migratory Treaty Bird Act (MBTA).

Read More Show Less
A spiny dogfish shark swims in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Washington. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts

There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.

Read More Show Less
A "vessel of opportunity" skims oil spilled after the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. NOAA / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Loveday Wright and Stuart Braun

After a Japanese-owned oil tanker struck a reef off Mauritius on July 25, a prolonged period of inaction is threatening to become an ecological disaster.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The Mountain Valley Pipeline proposes to carry natural gas for hundreds of miles over dozens of water sources, through protected areas and crossing the Appalachian Trail. Appalachian Trail Conservancy / YouTube

It's been a bad summer for fracked natural gas pipelines in North Carolina.

Read More Show Less