Although much of the biodiversity still to be discovered is hidden in the tropics, new species are still being described from Europe. This is the case in Andrena amieti, the species chosen as an emblem by the Swiss Systematics Society (SSS) in 2020.
This wild bee, described last year by Christophe Praz of the University of Neuchâtel and his colleagues from Zurich and France, belongs to the large genus Andrena, or mining bees, which includes more than 1,300 species. Andrena amieti is a high-altitude bee distributed over the entire Alpine arc, in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France and Italy. Adults are active from early spring to autumn, with two successive generations. Surprisingly, this species is widely distributed and common in the Alps. How could it have gone unnoticed despite more than 100 years of systematic work on bees in Central Europe? The answer probably comes from the fact that this species can be considered "cryptic": only the combination of genetic tools and morphological study has facilitated this discovery. "Andrena amieti is only the tip of the iceberg" concludes Christophe Praz, and at least 5 new species still had to be described in this group in the rest of Europe. At a time when pesticides and the degeneration of natural habitats threaten not only wild bees, but insect species in general, the SSS joins the discoverers of Andrena amieti in suggesting that the taxonomic research on our fauna is in need of additional resources.