- a blog by markus nolf

posts tagged "bee orchids"

[posted: Sunday, 2012-06-03] [category: living pictures, nature] [tags: , , , ]

bee orchids are – in my opinion – one of the truly curious outcomes of (co-)evolution. as noted before, the orchid species in the genus ophrys immitate female bees with their flowers and scent, attracting males that will try to mate with the flowers and unwillingly pollinate them. most of the species are optimized to just one (or few) bee species.

during last weekend’s trip to ardèche, france, we came across two species of bee orchid, and (naturally) the lytro lightfield camera was with me. :)

they do resemble bees when out of focus, don’t they?

ophrys apifera:


[posted: Sunday, 2011-04-24] [category: nature, photo] [tags: , , ]

i had certainly hoped to find another species of bee orchid here in denia (mainland spain), but i didn’t really expect to. all the happier about it, let me present the woodcock orchid (ophrys scolopax; de: Schnepfen-Ragwurz):

woodcock orchid (ophrys scolopax) - a bee orchid species

as previously explained, bee orchids trick male bees into thinking their flowers are females of their kind – e.g. by their colour patterns, the development of dense hair, and/or their scent. this makes their pollinators more likely to visit another flower of the same species, allowing for higher pollination success.

while the optical resemblance to bees is a lot more subtle in other species (which sometimes rely more strongly on ultraviolet patterns), it is very illustrative in ophrys scolopax.

woodcock orchid (ophrys scolopax) - a bee orchid species

[posted: Monday, 2010-05-31] [category: general] [tags: , ]

during our botanical excursion to mallorca, we were lucky enough to find several species of these plants:

mirror bee orchid (ophrys speculum ssp. speculum)
mirror bee orchid (ophrys speculum ssp. speculum)

bee orchids (genus ophrys) are specialized orchids from the mediterranean, which basically exploit horny bees.
instead of producing nectar to attract pollinating insects, ophrys flowers show morphological adaptations (including hair!) which make them resemble their pollinators, both in the visible light and ultraviolet spectrum. in addition, they also produce pheromones which further attract the males of their pollinator species.

when, for example, a male bee is successfully decepted, it will land on the flower and attempt to copulate with it. during this so-called pseudocopulation, pollen will get stuck to its abdomen and/or head. this way, the pollen has a better chance of reaching a flower of the same species, rather than just any flower.

if you’ve become curious, wikipedia (german version) has some more information.

photos: bee orchids, mallorca