BEE ORCHID

Ophrys apifera

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]  

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status
statusZnative
flower
flower8bicolour
flower
flower8lilac
inner
inner8brown inner8orange inner8beetroot inner8green
inner
inner8yellow
morph
morph8zygo
morph
morph8peloric
petals
petalsZ3
stem
stem8round

23rd June 2008, Sandbach, Cheshire Photo: © Roger Foden
A single stem bears several flowers on fat, slightly bulging, stalks up the stem, with a small gathering atop the plant.


23rd June 2008, Sandbach, Cheshire Photo: © Roger Foden
The flowers look remarkably like bees, and are set in the middle of three radiating lilac-coloured sepals which can easily be mistaken for petals. The actual petals are two in number, green shorter and narrow. Short, narrow oval leaves sprout just below each flowering stem.


30th May 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dunes, Southport. Photo: © RWD
The 'bee' has warm brown and fluorescent green markings on its three lobes, the side lobes bearing longer hairs. A mainly green 'hood' towers over the 'bee'. The upper petal of this specimen is folded back somewhat.


18th May 2009, St Julien d'Eymet, Dordogne.
Photo: © Christine Shield
The hood partly obscures two yellow pollen-loaded anthers on drooping thin yellow stalks; hovering above the bee ready to transfer the pollen onto any visiting (real) bee. Except that the Bee Orchid is the one and only orchid of the Orchis Genus which is routinely also self-pollinated. The wind catches the dangling anthers transferring pollen to the stigma.


30th May 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dunes, Southport. Photo: © RWD
Two short, narrow and green 'stump-like' petals emerge either side of the 'hood'.


30th May 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dunes, Southport. Photo: © RWD
These stubby 'stump-like' petals impart a slug-like appearance to the 'bee'. The two side lobes 'ears' of the bee are more hairy, as is the 'chin' of the 'bee'.


30th May 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dunes, Southport. Photo: © RWD
The two stubby petals are also hairy near the extremities.


9th July 2011, Kilmannoch, Eire. Photo: © Paula O'Meara
With one stamen intact.


9th July 2011, Kilmannoch, Eire. Photo: © Paula O'Meara
Close-up of above photo. Note the two greyish triangles in this particular specimen.


30th May 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dunes, Southport. Photo: © RWD
The two anthers dangle above the 'bee' ready to transfer the pollen to any visiting flying insects, bees especially.


30th May 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dunes, Southport. Photo: © RWD
The two yellow anthers were originally housed in the bulbous end of two slots in the upper part of the 'hood'. The 'throat' between 'hood' and 'bee' appears to offer nectar to visiting bees.


1st May 2012, Sandwich, Kent. Photo: © Barney Case
The 'bib' around the neck opening in this particular specimen is here seen to be dark purple rather than brown.


A BEE ORCHID VARIETY
Ophrys apifera var. chlorantha

30th June 2012, nr Needham Market, Mid Suffolk. Photo: © Maurice Sore
Variety chlorantha totally lacks any anthocyanin colouring and thus not only are the petals white but the colour of the body reflects the chlorophyll within it, a greeny-yellow. A closer scrutiny reveals there are residual marks on the body where the differing anthocyanins would play if they were present.


HYBRID BEE ORCHIDS

18th May 2009, St Julien d'Eymet, Dordogne. Photo: © Christine Shield
This orchid, a member of the Bee Orchid or Ophrys species, is thought to be a hybrid between Late Spider Orchid (Ophrys Holoserica) and Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys Scolopax)


18th May 2009, St Julien d'Eymet, Dordogne. Photo: © Christine Shield
This orchid, a member of the Bee Orchid or Ophrys species, is thought to be a hybrid between Late Spider Orchid (Ophrys Holoserica) and Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys Scolopax) and seems to have no presence in the UK.


Hybridises with :

  • Late Spider-Orchid to produce Ophrys × albertiana (Ophrys apifera × fuciflora) which in the decade of the 2000's was found in only one hectad in the UK (in Somerset) where previously it was found in three hectads.
  • Fly Orchid to produce Ophrys insectifera × apifera.

Distinguishing Feature : the three pink sepals fanning out in a triangular shape surrounding a warm-brown flower that looks like a bee. There are also two shorter green sepals sticking out above the bee like fat antennae.

The shape of a Bee Orchid attracts male bees who attempt to mate with the 'bee', who then carry away pollen to pollinate the next bee orchid. The Bee Orchid cheats; it provides no nectar for the bee.

There are eight or more differing varieties of Bee Orchid in the UK, some not typically shaped (peloric).

Variants of Bee Orchid :

  • Ophrys apifera var. bicolor Found in Warwickshire, Essex & Dorset.
  • Ophrys apifera var. belgarum Found in Hampshire and now widely known in an area including Essex, Somerset & Northamptonshire.
  • Ophrys apifera var. friburgensisWas in Wiltshire in 1984, now in Somerset.
  • Ophrys apifera var. trollii (Wasp Orchid) Found in Somerset, Dorset, Surrey, Suffolkj, Warwickshire & Notts.
  • Ophrys apifera var. atrofuscus Discovered in Sussex in 2001.
  • Ophrys apifera var. chlorantha Sussex, Middx, Essex & Yorks.
Two peloric forms are known: both without the 'bee' at all. One with the hood and polinia prominently displayed whilst the other has six pink nearly equi-sized petals/sepals arranged radially, but with slight zygomorphic asymmetry - a condition caused by  homeosis.

also, peloric flowers with multiple lips are not un-common.


  Ophrys apifera  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Orchidaceae  

Distribution
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BEE ORCHID

Ophrys apifera

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]  

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