Rare Blue Bee Is Back From Extinction

Insect researchers in Florida are a Buzz this week with the rediscovery of a rare blue bee, a tiny little insect believed to have gone extinct shortly after it was found. The famous species of the Sunshine State includes the American alligator, the Florida panther, the scrub jay, and the manatee. However certain species native to Florida are less common, such as the ultra-rare blue calamintha bee.

These Solitary bees are known to nest alone and to have a very preferred diet, feeding on Ashe’s Calamint, which is unfortunately also endangered as a plant species and found only in Florida. Efforts were made to preserve the bee when petitions were first found to preserve its endangered habitat in central Florida, but just five years later they had vanished.

Rare Blue Bee Geek Impulse
This blue calamintha bee specimen was collected in 2002 in Placid Lakes and is one of five specimens at the Florida State Collection of Arthropods in Gainesville. © FLORIDA MUSEUM PHOTO BY CHASE KIMMEL

Kimmel and his adviser, Jaret Daniels, director of the museum’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, are working on a two-year research project to determine the blue calamintha bee’s current population status and distribution, as well as nesting and feeding habits. Florida’s State Wildlife Action Plan lists the bee, Osmia calaminthae, as a species of greatest conservation need, and this project could help determine whether it qualifies for protection under the Endangered Species Act. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service State Wildlife Grant administered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is funding the project. (Excerpt From Florida Museum Article )

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

Rare Blue Bee Geek Impulse
After capturing a bee, researchers place it in a plastic bag with a hole to photograph its head before releasing it. Pollen left in the bag is analyzed to determine which flowers the bee visited. © FLORIDA MUSEUM PHOTO BY CHASE KIMMEL

Kimmel, along with his co-researcher, Jaret Daniels, is seeking to pursue their studies to the best of their ability without breaching the new Covid-19 lockout constraints. Sadly, the bee has a limited flight season from about mid-March to mid-May, which means that work can’t wait if it has any chance of finding live individuals.

“It’s a very time-limited flight. Now is when the bulk of that activity has to take place,” Daniels explained. “Chase is doing a fantastic job and we’re getting a lot of great data, but if it wasn’t for the Covid-19 virus we would have had more people in the field, so it has definitely scaled back what we’re able to do.”

Sources: Florida Museum

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