The world’s largest bee — a ‘flying bulldog’ — was thought to be extinct. It’s not

World’s biggest bee, thought to be extinct, found by researchers in Indonesia

Wallace’s Giant Bee, the world’s biggest bee is a huge wasp-like insect. The ‘flying bulldog’, was recently found in Indonesia by researchers.
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Wallace’s Giant Bee, the world’s biggest bee is a huge wasp-like insect. The ‘flying bulldog’, was recently found in Indonesia by researchers.

This bee isn’t just huge — it’s also the word’s largest.

And this big, black wasp-like bee was “thought by some to be extinct” since it hadn’t been seen since 1981, according to a statement from the University of Sydney. But Wallace’s Giant Bee is not extinct. A female bee was just found, and she was alive.

A team of researchers funded by the Global Wildlife Conservation went out to Indonesia with hopes of photographing a Wallace’s Giant Bee (otherwise known as Megachile pluto) and they did just that, according to the statement.

The search team found the bee in January, but the bee discovery was just announced today.

“After doing a happy dance, I photographed the bee and shot some video proof,” photographer Clay Bolt wrote in a Global Wildlife Conservation blog post. The team found the female bee living in a termites’ nest in a tree.

The female bee had a wingspan of about 2.5 inches, according to the University of Sydney statement. Females are twice as big as the males.

“It was absolutely breathtaking to see this ‘flying bulldog’ of an insect that we weren’t sure existed anymore,” Bolt said in the statement.

LiveScience calls this insect a “massive, nightmare bee.”

Alfred Russell Wallace, the discoverer and namesake of the bee, described the insect as “a large black wasp-like insect, with immense jaws like a stag-beetle,” according to a copy of his journals that were obtained by Bolt. The bee was discovered in 1858.

But those huge jaws “aren’t for nipping,” Gizmodo reported. Rather, they’re used “like salad tongs” to take resin back to its nest. Resin keeps termites out of the nest, since the giant bees build nests in termite mounds.

Simon Robson, a biologist at the University of Sydney in Australia, told the New York Times that he believes the bees can sting, but the team of researchers hasn’t been stung.

“We were all keen to get stung to see how bad it was, but because we only found the one, we treated it very carefully,” he said, according to the New York Times. He also said Wallace’s giant bees are “relatively solitary,” according to the newspaper.

There’s not much else known about the giant bees, according to LiveScience.

“It’s just ridiculously large and so exciting,” Robson said, according to the Times.

The team that found the female bee released her back to the nest after observing it in a flybox, according to Global Wildlife Conservation.

The team now plans to collaborate with Indonesian researchers in hope of finding the bee in other places, the University of Sydney announced.

“To see how beautiful and big the species is in real life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible,” Bolt said in the release. “My dream is to now use this rediscovery to elevate this bee to a symbol of conservation in this part of Indonesia.”

Follow these five steps to help protect yourself from bees.

Kaitlyn Alanis is based out of Kansas and reports on news from across the Midwest region. She has been at The Wichita Eagle since 2017.