Scientists find new Pacific bee species in Fiji

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Flinders University students sample in a remote rainforest on the Fijian island of Vanua Levu with two young locals helping to spot insects. The scale of the forest compared to the insect nets demonstrates some issues of sampling without a canopy net. Courtesy James Dorey Photography.

Scientists have found eight new Pacific bee species on Viti Levu and Taveuni, details of which have been released by Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia

Flinders PhDs Dr James Dorey and Dr Ben Parslow joined researchers from Fiji, Hawaii and Australia to study a totally new group of bees in forest canopies.

“Our investigations have discovered an extra group of endemic bees in Fiji that have remained ‘hidden’ in the forest canopy despite years of looking and sampling,” says Australian native bee expert Dr Dorey, now a lecturer at the University of Wollongong.

“Through our local collaborations, we also know that these bees are widespread in the Pacific. Six Fijian species were found foraging in trees in Rakiraki, Nadarivatu, Nadi and Taveuni.

“Unlike the super-generalist Homalictus bees that inhabit Fiji and likely benefitted from ancient human-clearing, the Fijian Hylaeus are likely very vulnerable to anthropogenic clearing and may be critical pollinators in forest habitats,” says Dr Dorey.

Co-author Dr Parslow, South Australian Museum taxonomist, says the study emphasises the benefits of long records of sampling in understanding diversity and conservation measures required for bees and other pollinators — particularly for land and environmental managers.

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