A Florida researcher has rediscovered a type of bee that is so rare that it was thought to be extinct. The Blue Calamintha bee was last seen in 2016 but on March 9th of this year, a researcher named Dr. Chase Kimmel from the Florida Museum of Natural History had the incredibly lucky opportunity of witnessing one.
Kimmel and his advisor Jaret Daniels, who is the director of the museum’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, went out looking for potential areas where the bee could have nests, what its eating habits are, and how many of them, if any, were still alive. And incredibly enough, Dr. Kimmel found the bee in three places where it was previously known to live, as well as six new locations that were as far as 50 miles away. In fact, it had previously only been recorded in four locations within 16 square miles in the Lake Wales Ridge region in the central part of Florida.
The Blue Calamintha bee has some pretty interesting characteristics. Kimmel and Daniels noticed that the bee bobs its head back and forth so that its facial hairs can gather as much pollen as it possibly can before transferring it to its stomach. Its primary source of pollen is on the Calamintha ashei which is endangered in Florida. Studies, however, have already determined that the bees used at least one other flowered plant for its source of pollen. Pictures of the bee can be seen here.
Unlike honeybees that create hives, the Blue Calamintha, which is part of the genus Osmia, is more solitary and makes individual nests. Although the researchers have yet to find any nests belonging to the Blue Calamintha, it is believed that they would reside in ground burrows or in hollowed out stems/holes in trees that are already dead.
Since it is highly dependent on an endangered plant, the bee will hopefully become protected under the Endangered Species Act with the newly found information on its rediscovery. But lots more work and studies need to be conducted before the bee can be put on the endangered list such as understanding its biology and preferred environment. A spokesperson at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement, “There was a lack of scientific information regarding the occurrence and life history of the bee [and more] information was needed to make an informed determination regarding the classification status for this species under the Endangered Species Act.”
Kimmel admitted that he hasn’t seen the bee in a couple of weeks but he’s optimistic that he’ll find it again as “the season is wrapping up right now,” he explained, adding that the bee’s flight season occurs from the middle of March to the early part of May. “It was a very early spring this year. It was very dry,” he said.