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Rare blue bee has been rediscovered in Florida

Saturday, May 16th 2020, 9:01 pm - The blue bee has not been seen since 2016, which made some researchers wonder if it was extinct.

Researchers at the Florida Museum of Natural History have rediscovered the extremely rare blue calamintha bee.

It has a metallic navy colouring and has only been found in four areas of the pine scrub habitat at Central Florida's Lake Wales Ridge. The blue bee was first discovered in 2011 and has not been spotted since 2016, which made researchers wonder if the species was extinct.

Chase Kimmel is a postdoctoral researcher at the Florida Museum of Natural History and was not sure he would find any blue bees when he ventured into their habitat in March 2020.

“I was open to the possibility that we may not find the bee at all so that first moment when we spotted it in the field was really exciting,” Kimmel said in the museum’s press release. During his trip into their habitat, he spotted them in three of their previously known locations and in six new places up to 80 kilometres away.

blue bee credit Florida Museum of Natural History Credit: Chase Kimmel, Florida Museum of Natural History

Kimmel and his advisor Jaret Daniels, director of the museum’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, are completing a two-year research project to learn more about blue bees. The objectives of their research are to find the bees in as many locations as possible to determine their habitats and what types of pollen they collect.

“We’re trying to fill in a lot of gaps that were not previously known,” Kimmel stated. “It shows how little we know about the insect community and how there’s a lot of neat discoveries that can still occur.”

blue bee florida permission granted Credit: Chase Kimmel, Florida Museum of Natural History

Blue bees primarily feed on the pollen from Calamintha ashei, which is a species of flowering plant in the mint family. The habitat where this plant grows is a biodiversity hotspot and one of the world's fastest-disappearing ecosystems due to habitat loss and human development.

The blue bee currently listed by Florida's State Wildlife Action Plan as a species of greatest conservation need. The museum’s researchers hope to identify more blue bees in other locations to learn how to better protect this species.

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