For children who are afraid of bees, the phrase “they’re as scared of you as you are of them” usually helps them remain calm. This goes for pretty much every kind of bee, aside from Africanized honey bees: the kamikaze pilots of the insect kingdom. Big bees, beautiful bees, bumble bees; they’re all relatively harmless so long as you don’t try to slap them out of the air. But what about the biggest, most terrifying bee the world has to offer? Believe it or not, it’s not the carpenter bee that regularly terrorizes children all over the United States. The biggest bee in the world is something that’s elusive and secretive, so much so that we actually thought it had gone extinct for almost forty years. Turns out, she’s still buzzing around.

The History (Or Lack Thereof) Of The Biggest Be In The World

The bee is known as “Wallace’s giant bee.” Wow. Now that’s some next-level creativity. It was first discovered (and obviously named) by none other than “Alfred Russel Wallace,” otherwise known as low-budget Charles Darwin. Wallace, who actually conceptualized the theory of evolution at around the exact same time that Darwin had (Darwin just beat him to it), discovered the massive insect while he was spelunking around Indonesia. God only knows why somebody would actually try to catch this enormous thing in the first place, but you have to hand it to him: Wallace was a very determined man. After Wallace’s discovery of this juggernaut of an insect, it laid low for over a century before resurfacing all of once in 1981. It then returned to isolation.

The Daily Beast

This bee is obviously endangered, considering the fact that it’s almost been as elusive to capture as bigfoot. When observing it from a distance where primal terror need not apply, this thing is truly something to gawk at: it’s got giant mandibles that look like they can cut off your fingers, translucent brown wings, and a furry body. It looks like it’s from the book of Revelations, but really, it’s a gentle giant above all else. As intimidating as its jaws are, they’re mainly used to grab tree sap and bring it back to the termite’s nest that it commandeered earlier, so you can keep your fingers. And yes, this thing lives by parking itself in the nests of termites and daring them all to do something about it. They don’t fight back. Then again, if you were a termite and this thing came thundering into your home, what would you do?

Clay Bolt/Wired

Rejoice: It’s Still Here

So how did our giant friend resurface? It took years of hard work and dedication, but in the end, a nature photographer by the name of Clay Bolt and an entomologist by the name of Eli Wyman finally managed to get their hands on one with the help of a small team of researchers. After searching tirelessly in termite mound after termite mound for a week straight, they were about to give up when finally, one of the researchers nearly had to change their pants after finding something wriggling around in the dark tunnels of a termite nest. After putting a tube over the hole and poking random things inside of it, the big dumb-dumb came waddling out: right into their trap. It was official: Wallace’s giant bee wasn’t yet extinct.

What To Do Now?

In the end, it’s great to know that we as a species aren’t squeezing the life out of the rest of the world as much as we thought we had. We still are, of course, but at least this bee is alive and well. Well, it’s not exactly well: the species is still endangered. However, it’s likely that this discovery will lead to some measures being taken to preserve the safety of the largest bee on Earth.