Blue bee feared to be extinct is found in Florida

First discovered in 2011, the rare species reappeared recently after nearly a decade of eluding scientists’ watch

As soon as the blue calamintha bee arrived on the scene, scientists worried it might be gone for good.

The indigo insect was last spotted in central Florida in 2016, five years after it was first identified. But this spring, just as Americans began to hunker down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rare blue bees, known scientifically as Osmia calaminthae, were rediscovered in the same region foraging on Ashe’s calamint, a dainty violet flower that blooms in certain scrub habitats.

Chase Kimmel of the Florida Museum of Natural History confirmed the bees’ survival in March. At first, he couldn’t believe his own eyes. “It was a great feeling; those first few nights were hard to sleep due to the anxiousness and excitement,” he says. “The first few times I found the bee I couldn’t help [but] constantly question my own eyes and judgment on the diagnostic characteristics of the bee. I needed to look multiple times at the photos to confirm their identity.”

In all, Kimmel and colleagues documented just 17 rare bees and never more than three at any one time.

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