Florida’s rare blue bee rediscovered at Lake Wales Ridge

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.

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.

While visiting flowers, the blue calamintha bee bobs its head back and forth to pick up as much pollen as possible with its unusual facial hairs. Daniels and Kimmel also want to determine whether it visits other flowers apart from Ashe’s calamint 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.