Ophrys apifera: The orchid that looks like a bee

Next time you think you spot a bee hanging around on a nearby flower, have a closer look, especially if you’re in the Mediterranean… Because it might not actually be a bee!

A close up of a bee orchid

The bee orchid, known to plant buffs as Ophrys apifera, has a flower which has evolved to look almost exactly like a bee… provided you squint a bit, that is…

An orchid bee and a butterfly

The name of the plant is made up of the Greek word “Ophrys”, which means “eyebrow”, and the Latin word “apifera”, which refers to the flower’s bee-shaped lip.

Bee orchid

Not only does the bee orchid flower look like a bee, it also smells like a bee! A female bee, to be precise. The reason for this mimicry is that the orchid needs to be pollinated with the help of bees – and there’s no better way of getting a male bee to jump all over you than by looking and smelling like a female bee! Be honest – we’ve all tried it at some point…

Eucera rosae bee

Watch this video to see some poor, poor long-horned bees get tricked into having hanky-panky with some orchids in Israel. I guarantee you’ll end up feeling sorry for the little blighters afterwards!

Photo credits: gautonphotography, davidpiano92, Hectonichus and USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory

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About Dom Stapleton

Dom Stapleton

As well as being the world’s northernmost capital city, Reykjavik in Iceland is also an incredible place to visit.

We stayed in a hotel right in the middle of the city and spent most days walking around from there. The main thing we noticed (apart from the cold, of course) was that the people are so friendly! At home, trying to cross the road is a nightmare, but in Reykjavik, the cars are literally queuing up to let you across!

When my partner and I went, in January 2013, the sun only started rising at about 10 am, which was a strange experience. And it got dark at about 4 pm each day!

Dom works in our marketing team

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