October 1, 2020

Bee believed extinct now discovered

There is a real buzz around Florida at the moment and that is because a bee that was previously thought to be extinct has been spotted again. The blue bee is incredibly strange in appearance and had been spotted for the first time 10 years ago. Since then it has been missing in action. Thanks to the efforts of one man, in particular, it is now back on the register.

The blue calamintha bee as it is properly known or Osmia Calaminthae according to its scientific name was first spotted in 2011. Back then the bees were only found in four distinct locations in a span of 16 miles. In addition, no hives were found only the solitary bees. Since then the bees were sighted on rare occasions until 2016. In the last five years, there have been no sightings of the blue calamintha bee and many thought it was extinct forever.

Chase Kimmel is the man who was lucky enough to spot the wild bee. He works at the Florida Museum of Natural History and was documenting bees in the wild. He and his team found 17 of the rare bee in total but never more than three at a time. The bee was spotted in the same area as previously near Lake Wales Sand Ridge, a 240 km region in Florida. 

The region is a special environment due to its unique plant life and small size. It makes it an interesting place to search as it is not too large and hospitable to strange varieties of animals. The flower that this blue bee enjoys is isolated in a small number of spots in the ridge meaning that Kimmel’s work was difficult and tiring but targeted and purposeful. This was not a needle in a haystack search party.

It was originally feared that pesticides in nearby agricultural land may have killed off the remaining bee life in the area but it now appears they are surviving, although Kimmel says the use of chemicals in the area and the reducing size of the landscape is still a large concern.

The blue bee has only been discovered in the last ten years and so very little is known about it. As a hive has never been found scientists are basing all of their research on individual bees spotted in the wild. From studying the bees Kimmel has already noted unique behavioral traits. The bee appears to bob its head three to four times against a flower, something that no other bee in the area does. It appears to do this to stick pollen to its own head and Kimmel suspects that the bee may have special features to allow the pollen to stay there. He found that the bee was never in a hurry to collect the pollen into its abdomen and believes there is a reason for it.

While the indigo-colored exterior of the bee appears strange it is one of nine bee species in Florida alone that exhibit this color. Yet this bee, in particular, has been bothering biologists for some time. Because of the low numbers spotted in a limited area, it has been difficult to study. Kimmel’s work has shown that there are now more bees in a wider area than ever previously studied. He hopes this is a sign that the bee is making a comeback.

If that is the case it will mean the bee will be easier to study next spring and that they may even be fortunate enough to find a hive. It is now well documented how important bees are to our lives and if one bee is making a return to a higher population, that is certainly good news.