A new species of bee with giant jaws

A new species of bee has been discovered in the outer suburb of Forrestdale by Western Australian Museum scientists.

WA Museum curator of insects Dr Terry Houston and Museum volunteer Otto Mueller spotted the new species in bushland in December 2010.

An authority on Australian native bees, Dr Houston said he was surprised to discover a moderately large and unusual new species of insect so close to the city.

“Finding a new species of animal is always exciting but finding something like this handsome and extraordinary species of solitary bee so close to a large metropolis is highly unusual,” Dr Houston said.

“What is equally remarkable is that while male bees are not usually known to have a role in building nests or rearing young, the males of this species acts like gate-keepers, stationing themselves below the burrow entrances.

“This burrow guarding behaviour is something quite new for a solitary bee species.”

The bee was found in Forrestdale bushland, which is part of the Jandakot Regional Park and about 21 kilometres from Perth CBD.

“This means that, as with many native animals living in our remnant bushland areas, this population is at risk from ongoing or new urban development,” Dr Houston said.

About the size of a honeybee, the new species can be distinguished by its black colouring and partial covering of white hair, with the tip of its abdomen a bright orange-red. It has a larger head than is usual in native bees, more so in the males which possess remarkably large jaws, suggesting they are well adapted for fighting.

Museum CEO Alec Coles said he was delighted with the find.

“This is another example of the extraordinary wildlife in Western Australia and indeed Perth, which has long been recognised as one of the world’s most biodiverse cities. The reason that we know this, of course, is because organisations like the WA Museum are constantly researching and discovering new animals.

”Over the past five years, the Museum has found and helped describe more than 400 new animal species from WA – an incredible number compared with almost anywhere else in the world.”

Flora Perrella, Western Australian Museum T: 08 92123856 M: 0424 027 646