Monday, May 25, 2009

Bee Orchid

The bee orchid(Ophrys apifera) lives in an amazing symbiotic relationship with bees. Flowering in June/July in Karst regions they have evolved to look like bees in order to attract the pollinators. Attract in the sexual sense Dawkins in "blind watchmaker" describes how male bees attempt to mate with this flower.

Another Flower that seems peculilarly adapted to bees is the invasive Himalayan balsam.

I have seen them in karst regions of Clare (the photo is of one near Pollballygoonaun cave) in October. It has an unusual pink/mauve color. I would love to see a photo taken in ultraviolet of them. I believe they will show up luminous in bees vision.

The shape of the flower is evolved to promote pollen being rubbed onto the bees. The petals form a long thin tube that the bees enter to try access the nectar. Half way down this tube the anthers are positioned to rub off the bee. The symbiosis involved between the bee and this flower is fascinating. It has especially long petals that form a tunnel. As the bee goes down this tunnel to access the flowers nectar the pollen is rubbed onto it. This design means that more of the pollen is attached to and collected from the bees then it would if the bees position was not so carefully controlled.

There is a video of the process here.

1 comment:

  1. Photos of this in Ultraviolet are on in the butterfly vision section.