The daily cuts and thrusts of political intrigue in contemporary lowland Southeast Asia aren’t the only stories worth following these days.

In one of the most unexpected snippets of Burma news to make a big international splash over the past few months, almost everybody seems to be reporting that the world’s oldest bee has been found in the Hukawng Valley, Kachin State. According to reports, the bee is approximately 100 million years old. The fullest write-up of the discovery is published in Science.

The bee in question is now linked with the name of George Poinar, a globetrotting amber hunter, who has published widely on his various quests in search of preserved, prehistoric specimens.

I can’t find any detail on recent entomological expeditions to northern Burma and it looks like Poinar did not find the amber himself. According to one report, the amber was dug up in a cave in the Kachin State 3 years ago. Another article notes that “entomologist and amber aficionado George Poinar…purchased a piece of amber with a mosquito-sized bee in it”.

In the context of northern Burma’s economy, and its current dependence on extractive industries of many types, it would be great to know more about the trade that took a bag of amber fragments from the Hukawng to Oregon, and now to global fame. If anybody out there has any more information, please shoot me an e-mail.

As I learn more, I will be sure to post updates to New Mandala.