Scientists have discovered in amber a bee about 100 million years old. This is the oldest bee known to science, according to a report from Oregon State University, published in BioOne magazine.
Pollinating insects promoted the propagation of flowering plants throughout the globe, and were also environmentally important factors contributing to the conservation of biodiversity.
Bees are the only group of pollinators that feed exclusively on nectar and pollen throughout their entire life cycle. Scientists know that bees descended from predatory apoid wasps, but what exactly contributed to changes in the structure of the wasps organism – in other words, why they switched from animal food to nectar – the researchers cannot say for sure.
A fossil of the Apicula Discoscapa bee, about 100 million years old, was discovered in Myanmar and belongs to the Middle Cretaceous. Inside amber, scientists found not only a bee with pollen, but also a primitive parasite – a triangulin beetle, which is still found in bee nests and feeds on larvae.
The petrified bee has similarities with modern bees, including cirrus hairs, a rounded pronotum and a pair of spurs on the hind tibia. At the same time, they are similar to apoid wasps due to their very low located antenna nests and the location of veins on their wings.
The discovery will help to better understand the evolution of bees and determine how their ancestors evolved from predators to vegetarians, scientists say.