Bee orchids

Sawfly orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera)

A common Phalaenopsis orchid hybrid
Orchids are one of the largest and most diverse families of flowering plants in the world, as well as being one of the most popular in horticulture. Most people in Europe will be familiar with the Phalaenopsis orchid we see in supermarkets, a flashy hybrid that flowers a lot and is relatively easy to keep. A trickier beauty you won't see on a supermarket shelf, is a bee orchid.

Orchids in the Ophrys genus are commonly referred to collectively as bee orchids. They are found mostly in the Mediterranean, Caucasus, Middle East, and North Africa, but some also occur in the UK and Ireland. Personally, I've only ever seen them in the wild in Mallorca but they are one of my favourite types of orchid.

Bee orchids produce clusters of beautiful delicate flowers – in fact, if any flowers can be considered adorable, these can, some even seem furry! However, don't let their innocent façade fool you. These orchids produce pheromones similar to those of the females of specific bee and wasp species. This attracts the male insects and when they find the source of the chemicals, well, to a male lovesick bee a furry flower that smells right is close enough to a female! So as the poor deluded bee attempts to copulate with the conniving flower, rather than spreading his own genes, what he is doing is picking up pollen from the orchid, which he will unwittingly deposit on the next flower he tries to get off with.

Ah evolution and it's sadistic tricks!

Sawfly orchid flowers (Ophrys tenthredinifera)

Mirror orchid (Ophrys speculum), possibly the cutest bee orchid!
Sawfly orchids (Ophrys tenthredinifera

Bumblebee orchids (Ophrys bombyliflora)

Check this out for a short, simple and sweet video about evil orchids.


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