There are reported to be 20,000 species of bee known to science. Therefore it seems appropriate that for my first ever bee of the week I choose Melittosphex burmensis, the first bee.
Discovered in 2006 by Burmese amber miners it is the earliest specimen of the transition from wasps to what we would recognise as the modern bee. Scientists even found prehistoric pollen trapped in the bee’s hairs.
The discovery was described by the two scientists who found it, George Poinar and Bryan Danforth:
It’s exciting to see something that seems so different from what we think of as modern bees. It’s not an ancestor of honeybees, but probably was a species on an early branch of the evolutionary tree of bees that went extinct.
Measuring only 3mm (1/8 of a inch) this tiny bee gives the first glimpse of the modern bees we know and love. It then disappears not to resurface in the fossil record for almost another 40,000,000 years.
Melittosphex burmensis, the first bee.