A species of native bee in the rainforests of eastern Australia has found for the first time in 98 years. Although rare, and almost certainly a threat to habitat loss and fragmentation, bee rediscovery offers hope for many bee species that have not been seen for decades.
Earlier this week, many people had a brief moment with the hope that the world is most famous endangered species, thylacine, might still be alive. This hope was quickly shattered, but part of the consolation was that a much lesser known animal, unseen for a long time than the Tasmanian tiger, had found alive. Welcome back to Pharohylaeus lactiferus.
Australia has hundreds of native bee species, many of which may already be extinct (a common problem worldwide). P. Lactiferous has a special status, but it lives in New Guinea, the only species of Pharohylaeus being the only Australian member of a genus. Lactiferous has not seen since 1923, and only six samples collected before that when James Door, a PhD student at Flinders University, went to search for it. Dore told IFLScience that his trip to the Rainforest in Queensland and North New South Wales was primarily for a thesis on the relationship between ground-nesting bees. However, p. lactiferus’s upon learning of the possible death of Lactiferous, he decided to investigate at once. As well as an entomologist, Dore is a photographer who has tasked himself with photographing at least one member of each Australian beehive, including 633, “he is counting the introductions,” he said. Dorey told IFLScience, “If I could include Pharohylaeus, I would have to find Lactiferous.
He found it on three of the 245 places he visited, although there are some fake warnings along the way. Dr. “Lactiferous is part of a group that is relatively hairless in masked bees and has significant facial features,” Dory told IFLScience.” This makes them easy to distinguish from other bees, and the lactiferous is “unusually large and dense, probably with two cc, so it can said to be in addition to most other masked bees.” Still, Dore sometimes misleads other big-masked bees for his reward until he really gets a closer look.
Unfortunately, it seems that Lactiferous can be too meticulous for its own good. He found it only on the outskirts of tropical and subtropical rainforests, Dorey said in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research. Moreover, it seemed to be interested only in the flowers of two trees, the evictor named Fire Wheel and the Illawarra Flame Tree. These are both bright red and more known for humorously pollinated by birds than honey. Dory told IFLScience that she saw many other bees, pollinating the same flowers, so at least Lactiferous dies, so do not keep these plants with you.
I hope that this fate can avoid. Dory says the key to lactiferous conservation is preserving its habitat, and that if it is reconnected, individual populations may mix their genes. Unfortunately, last year’s bushfire experience meant these forests were under more pressure than ever before.