Uncovered by folks studying how the park’s ecosystem has been affected by the powerful 2016 Chimney Tops 2 fires near Gatlinburg, TN, the new species of bee is among the new pollinators appearing in the area, which was previously heavily forested. Researchers say the epeolus inornatus, as the newcomer is called, has likely been in + around the park before, it’s simply never been observed and categorized. A variety of the cellophane-cuckoo bee, it showcases the region’s biodiversity and brings the total number of species in the Smokies to 21,081.
Park officials say that while the species itself is relatively new, having only been uncovered by folks with Great Smoky Mountains National Park-based non-profit organization Discover Life in America (DLIA) around Summer 2019, its genus — the cellophane-cuckoo bees — is more widely recognized and lives in North American spots ranging as far north as New England and as far south as eastern Texas. Named, in part, because the protective material they use to seal their egg shut in the ground favors cellophane, cellophane-cuckoo bees are solitary creatures who lay their eggs inside another bee’s cellophane wrapper and reseal it, leaving its host’s egg to be consumed when the cellophane-cuckoo bee egg hatches first.
One thing about its discovery that is super cool? The DLIA researcher that found it snapped its pic and posted it on iNaturalist, leading to it being the first record of this species on the app. We think all of this news is simply bee-utiful.