Meet the largest known bee on earth, Megachile pluto.
The common name of this bee is Wallace’s Giant Resin Bee since it was originally collected by Alfred Russel Wallace in the late 19th century and females have elongate massive mandibles for carrying resins back to their nests.
Wallace’s Giant Resin bee is exceedingly rare and has only been collected on a few occasions. A recent expedition in early 2019 confirmed that M. pluto is still present, although it is threatened by habitat loss and trafficking by commercial insect collectors.
These bees are remarkable for their habit of nesting exclusively in the arboreal nests of a single species of termite: Microcerotermes amboinensis (family Termitidae). Females collect wood fibers and plant resins to construct a resistant, waterproof brood cell just below the outer surface (envelope) of the termite nest. They provision their brood cell with a moist mixture of pollen and nectar, and lay an egg. Females may share nests but each female constructs and provisions her own brood cell. This bee is known locally by a specific folk epithet which translates roughly to “king bee”.
This specimen is currently on loan from the Cornell University Insect Collection and is on public display in the “Bees! Diversity, Evolution and Conservation” exhibit at the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca. This exhibit was developed and designed in conjunction with Dr. Bryan Danforth, Chair and Professor of the Department of Entomology at Cornell University and Curator of Hymenoptera at CUIC. So be sure to visit the exhibit before June 1, 2020 to see this remarkable specimen and many more from our collections!