Bees are an essential constituent in the plethora of pollinating insects in existence today, and while there’s no arguing the fact that bee populations are declining because of various factors like habitat loss and heavy pesticide usage, that’s not to say scientists aren’t making strides in their bee-centric research.
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It was only two weeks ago that researchers happened upon the first confirmed living specimen of Wallace’s giant bee (Megachile pluto) – A.K.A. the world’s largest bee – for the first time in four decades, but it seems that yet another Houdini bee species has recently made an unprecedented appearance in the wild: Douglas's broad-headed bee (Hesperocolletes douglasi).
Indeed folks, Douglas's broad-headed bee has not been observed alive in the wild for more than 80 years. Given the seemingly dire circumstances, conservationists went ahead and presumed that the species went extinct in 1994, but we now know this to be incorrect thanks to a paper recently published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.
As it would seem, a female specimen of Douglas's broad-headed bee was found alive in Perth following the wrap-up of a pollinating insect survey. Juliana Pille Arnold of the University of Western Australia’s School of Biological Sciences is said to have discovered in the region’s Banksia woodland, a rapidly-shrinking hotspot for biodiversity.
"This is a wake-up call for the need to act now to protect and manage urban landscapes in order to sustain biodiversity," Pille Arnold said after coming up with the discovery. "Only about 35% of its original cover persists, mainly consisting of fragments of bushland dispersed across urban and rural areas in the region, which are under increasing pressure from clearing and urban development."
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The alarming circumstances surrounding the Banksia woodland led to its recognition as a threatened ecological community just three years ago. Following the discovery of a species there that was previously thought to be extinct, Pille Arnold suggests that conservationists must do more to protect it and ensure that the biodiversity lives on.
"The rediscovery of the rare Douglas's broad-headed bee highlights the importance of preservation, restoration and proper management of remnant banksia woodland in the face of extensive land clearing and other man-made threats in the region in order to safeguard habitat for biodiversity."
No one knows for sure how many other Douglas's broad-headed bees reside in the Banksia woodland. Fortunately, it’s not as “extinct” as conservationists initially thought, and the discovery is guaranteed to drive additional research to discern the species’ exact population numbers.