The Bumblebee Orchid

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The Bumblebee Orchid (Ophrys bombyliflora) is native to the Mediterranean area. It is a very small plant, reaching up to 35 centimeters in height. It prefers to grow in calcareous soil in abandoned pastures and forest clearings mixed in with shrubs and brush. All members of the Ophrys genus are insect pollinated plants, but the Bumblebee Orchid also reproduces by root tubers, making it a very successful and dominant species among the group.

Ophrys orchids are dormant underground bulbous tubers during the summer and develop leaves during the fall and a new tuber starts to grow until spring when the flowering stem grows. Each stem will grow 2 to 12 flowers that are unique from other orchids by their colors, shapes, and ingenuity the use to attract insects. Each Ophrys species has its own insect that it depends on for pollination. Bumblebee Orchids are completely dependent upon bumblebees (Eucera algira). Each flower has a lip that tricks the insect visually and by mimicking female pheromones that attract the males.

The Bumblebee Orchid has 2 to 3 flowers that look and smell so much like female bumble bees, that the chemical signals stimulate the bees sexually. The smell, look, and feel of the lip of the flowers mimic female bumblebees so well, that the males attempt to copulate with the flower and pollen sacs stick to its head and abdomen. Bumblebee Orchid pollination is a precise process that requires the pollen sacs to shift into a position that allows it to stick to stigma of another orchid of the same species. If the pollen does not shift into position, the new orchid can not be pollinated.

“Ophrys bombyliflora-Bumblebee Orchid-(Orchidaceae)” First Nature. 27 Jul 2011,

"Coevolution." New World Encyclopedia. 3 Apr 2008, 19:17 UTC. 27 Jul 2011, 17:34 .
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