Florida’s rare blue bee rediscovered at Lake Wales Ridge

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he Sunshine State’s iconic wildlife includes the American alligator, the Florida panther, the scrub jay and the manatee. But some species unique to Florida are less familiar, like the ultra-rare blue calamintha bee. First described in 2011, scientists weren’t sure the bee still existed. The species had only been recorded in four locations totaling just 16 square miles of pine scrub habitat at Central Florida’s Lake Wales Ridge. But that changed this spring when a Florida Museum of Natural History researcher rediscovered the metallic navy insects, a first step to conserving this understudied and imperiled species. “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,” said Chase Kimmel, a postdoctoral researcher. 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 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. The bee is thought to live only in the Lake Wales Ridge region, a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot and one of the nation’s fastest-disappearing ecosystems, according to a 2015 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report. As a pollinator, it depends on another threatened species, a blooming plant known as Ashe’s calamint. “This is a highly specialized and localized bee,” Daniels said. The Lake Wales Ridge’s rare species are a product of Florida’s geological […]

Original Post www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu

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