Rediscovered: The Ultra-Rare Long Lost Blue Calamintha Bee Spotted at Lake Wale Ridge in Florida

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Can you really remember the notorious blue bee, which has a habit of bobbing its head back and forth when it’s pollinating? Anyway okay. We know that you are glad to welcome back this beautiful bee.

For those who may not be aware, there is a species of bee known as the Osmia calaminthae. This bee is as you’d expect a bit blue in color unlike your average bee.

Originally known as the Calamintha Bee, native to Florida, and long thought lost, this brightly colored bee has made a surprise appearance and has shocked everyone! It was discovered by researchers in the Lake Wales Ridge in central Florida. This rare specimen is not only a wonder to look at, but also has so much unexplored research potential.

On 9th March, Dr. Chase Kimmel, a postdoctoral associate at the University of Florida, and a volunteer, went out to look for bees. While setting traps, they saw the unmistakable movement of a bee bobbing its head. They do this to transfer the pollen from its head down to its stomach, hence the bobbing motion. It’s wordily amazing.

After catching and examining the specimen, it indeed was the ultra-rare Calamintha Bee. So far, this blue bee has only been recorded in four locations totaling just 16 square miles within Central Florida’s Lake Wales Ridge and it seems since Spring a Florida Museum of Natural History has gotten lucky in ‘rediscovering’ these little guys. While it might not sound like much to the average person, this find is remarkable. These beings were thought to be gone for good and to begin with we did not know much about them. Now that we know they are still out there we have so much to learn.

The more bees there are the better chance the species has of survival in the long run.

Kimmel was able to record the bee in multiple locations, some up to 50 miles away from each other, and he will now work on determining its range. The information he discovers could help get the bee protected under the Endangered Species Act.

According to Kimmel, it is too early to know if the bee will be registered on the endangered species list, because more research needs to be done. There’s still much to learn about the Blue Calamintha bee. Not much is known about the bee’s biology. The objective over the next year is to record the bee in as many locations as possible to determine its range and increase understanding of its biology.

Not even the environment which it prefers. That’s easier said than done though as it’s such a rare insect to find, let alone study. Many believe something as rare as the Calamintha Blue Bee should be protected but oddly, it’s not on any environmental protection list or even state and federal protection. This species of bees, however, isn’t considered to be an endangered one, but rather a species in need of greatest conservation.

The ongoing research is funded by a Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission grant through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This research falls under the grant’s qualifications to conserve important wildlife habitats or prevent species extinctions. “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,” according to a spokesperson at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The plant which the bee depends on for survival, the Calamintha Ashei, is also endangered in Florida. It is rather bit risky. Dr. Chase Kimmel also wants to determine whether it visits other flowers apart from the Calamintha Ashei by studying the pollen collected from bees and using visual surveys. So far, they have recorded one instance of the bee using another floral host.

A Calaminthae Bee visiting flowers of Calamintha Ashei

The blue calamintha is a solitary bee, creating individual nests instead of hives like honeybees. While no nests have been found, the species is part of the genus Osmia, which tends to use existing ground burrows, hollow stems or holes in dead trees as nests.

There’s still much to learn about the blue calamintha bee. Not much is known about the bee’s biology. Does it prefer sun or shade? Such information is what Kimmel team will be looking into.

Kimmel added that “in an ideal world, it would be great to look at how management choices impact the plant and the population of this bee.” For example, the Florida Scrub Jays are an endangered species, and as such, conservationists and governments have tried to protect them, which include managing wildlife to enable them to flourish.

The blue calamintha is a solitary bee, creating individual nests instead of hives like honeybees. While no nests have been found, the species is part of the genus Osmia, which tends to use existing ground burrows, hollow stems or holes in dead trees as nests.

There’s still much to learn about the blue calamintha bee. Not much is known about the bee’s biology. Does it prefer sun or shade? Such information is what Kimmel team will be looking into.

Kimmel added that “in an ideal world, it would be great to look at how management choices impact the plant and the population of this bee.” For example, the Florida Scrub Jays are an endangered species, and as such, conservationists and governments have tried to protect them, which include managing wildlife to enable them to flourish.

However, these management methods, which includes burning vegetation including the flowers that support the blue calamintha bees, could be damaging to the bee population, Kimmel explained. “Is the management for that bird the same as the management for this bee?” he poses. Other questions include how quickly a bee returns to an area that’s been burned, and how quickly does a plant regenerate to have the blossoms to support that bee.

You only have to take one look at these amazing bees to fall in love with them! Their vibrant colors coupled with their unique pollination methods make these Calamintha Bees a great addition to local wildlife. Already assuming they were extinct, this discovery came as a surprise to everyone.

Hopefully, researchers won’t waste this opportunity though but rather use it to investigate the biology of these bees which will, in the long-term, help to ensure the species lives in abundance once again. Flock together and just have a glace! The vision would be out rightly spectacular!

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