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

Places mentioned in this post

, ,