Monday, April 23, 2012

Monkey Bees-ness

Rockrose & Bee

I'm back from 3 weeks in Israel, where there were all kinds of bees... There were ones that humbly collected pollen and nectar of cistus (see photo above) and were busy building combs and making honey; but also there were some perverted ones that strayed from their task for a pseudocopulation with deceiving plants...

Growing up in Clil, there were a couple of spots near our home were year after year we'll go looking for the "Large Bee Orchid" (Devoranit Gedola). They were rare, and like most bulbeous plants, re-bloom each year in the same location and don't spread out nearly as easily as other wild flowers.

Ophrys apifera (Bee Orchid)

This year, I was fortunate to spot the rare bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) quite late into spring and in an area I've never knew was a habitat for this strange plant. The area where they were growing had a mind boggling abundance of them (relatively speaking, of course...) and me and my brother Yotam spotted 2 hybrids of them - Large Bee Orchid (which looks like bumblebee) and Velvet Bee Orchid (the brown one, which looks like a wild bee).

Wild Bee Orchid

These sneaky orchids, in addition to dressing up as a wild Mediterranean bees, have developed an anatomy that will embarrass the manufacturers of blow-up-dolls. Furthermore, it even releases virgin bee pheromones (!) to make the male bee mad to the point of having sex with them...
This act of deception is called pseudocopulation. I haven't noticed
any smell around these orchids, so I'm guessing it's one of those scentless pheromones... This natural phenomenon, nevertheless, got me thinking quite a bit about the intelligence of plants - they must know more than they show!

These orchids are the only plants I'm aware of having such a developed sexual scheme. I'm curious to hear if you've ever seen them in real life (preferably in the wild) or if you know of any other plants that have such strange sexual habits.

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At April 23, 2012 2:12 PM, Blogger vida.violeta said...

How erotic and phenomenal! Some say the old gods have disappeared--but here is Aphrodite incarnate! The legendary love potion no. 9 may very well be produced in the vuvlas of these orchids...

p.s. Gilliesia alliaceae, a Chilean member of the onion family, also induces psuedocopulation but coincidentally its flowers too are quite similar to orchids--although it is not in the orchid family

At April 23, 2012 8:23 PM, Anonymous cheesegan said...

I have seen beetles on skunk cabbage here in the pacific northwest. The skunk cabbage uses it's skunky smell to attract beetles for pollination.

Not quite as sext as your bee orchid.

At April 23, 2012 11:44 PM, Blogger Cool Boy said...


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