Male bees prefer orchids to females

Ophrys apifera, bee orchid

From Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News:

Bee Prefers Sex With Orchid Over Females

May 27, 2008 — It’s no wonder romantic couples give each other flowers, since researchers have determined one orchid is so attractive to male bees that the males actually prefer sex with the orchid over sex with female bees of their own species.

The finding demonstrates the incredible seductive powers of certain flowers, and how these flowers — in this case Ophrys orchids — can compete with female insects for male attention.

The orchid sexual tool kit includes three powerful “weapons” that overwhelm male Colletes cunicularius bees through sight, touch and smell. All three mimic characteristics of female bees that are ready to mate.

“The visual mimicry includes (copying) the color and shape of a female (bee),” co-author Florian Schiestl told Discovery News.

“Tactile memory includes (copying) the hairs on the body of a female,” added Schiestl, a University of Zurich botanist and biologist.

He and colleague Nicolas Vereecken focused, however, on the orchid’s perfume, which humans cannot smell, but is irresistible to male bees.

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