Toby Talbot, Associated Press
In this July 5, 2011 file photo, a bumblebee alights on the bloom of a thistle in Berlin, Vt.

SALT LAKE CITY — Scientists just discovered the world’s largest bee, which they thought had been lost to science, BBC News reports.

The brief: Scientists discovered the bee on an Indonesian island that is rarely explored.

The bee, called Wallace’s giant bee, is about the size of a thumb. It was named after the British explorer Alfred Russel Wallace, who first described the creature in 1858, BBC News reports.

However, there have been no discoveries since that time until now. Scientists went on a hunt that followed the same footsteps as Wallace back in January. That’s when they found the bee.

  • Natural history photographer Clay Bolt took the first photos and video in the recent expedition, according to BBC News.
  • "It was absolutely breathtaking to see this 'flying bulldog' of an insect that we weren't sure existed anymore, to have real proof right there in front of us in the wild," Bolt said. "To actually see how beautiful and big the species is in life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible."

Insights: The rediscovery of the bee has made scientists hopeful about the future of the species, according to The Guardian.

Massive deforestation threatens much of the agriculture in Indonesia, which puts the bee’s habitat under pressure as well, according to The Guardian.

Similarly, the bee’s rarity makes it a bit of a collectible for hunters and gatherers. There is no legal protection for it yet, either, The Guardian reports.

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  • “We know that putting the news out about this rediscovery could seem like a big risk given the demand, but the reality is that unscrupulous collectors already know that the bee is out there,” said Robin Moore, a conservation biologist for the Global Wildlife Conservation.

Moore hopes people will make the bee a champion for conservation.

  • “By making the bee a world-famous flagship for conservation we are confident that the species has a brighter future than if we just let it quietly be collected into oblivion,” he said.