Monday 22 April 2024

Early Spider Orchid fools a Bee.

 It was time for my annual Early Spider Orchid fix, and after getting a call from David, telling me that he and Gary were going to a favourite site of mine, I decided to join them. We also invited Pete to join us, so it was quite a party when we all met up. Once again, the cold breeze that seems to have been with us for so long, was still there, and along the top of the downland it was pretty exposed.

It is quite a long walk to the hillside where the orchids are, so there was plenty of time for a bit of banter, and finding out where everyone had been recently. Japan was the furthest any of us had travelled, and that wasn't me!!

The orchids this year seem to be mainly quite small, which was a bit of a surprise to me with all the wet weather we have been having. It was actually quite hard finding any of the orchids that were in a good position for photography, as most were tucked into the grasses where they were so short. At last though, one of them did stand out as it was a little taller and also at an angle where the background would be blurred out.

Early Spider Orchid.

We had a wander across the area finding many orchids, with many more still to come. As we slowly made our way back Gary and I both saw a small bee drop down onto one of the flowers. Fortunately, we were able to get some quick grab shots of the bee on the flower, as this is how the orchid gets pollinated. The orchid actually has a scent which mimics the pheromone of the female bee, so when a male detects this scent he tries to mount the flower to mate, with what he believes is the female bee. In doing so he is likely to get the sticky pollen sacs attached to him. The idea then is that he will eventually try the same thing on another orchid if he gets fooled again, and pollination will take place. It is only the solitary bee, Andrena nigroaena, the Buffish Mining Bee, that the orchid attracts. I have never seen this behaviour before, and there are not that many pictures of the event either, so we were really lucky to witness this happening in front of us. It was also very quick. I only managed to shoot off 3 photos before the male bee realised he had been fooled, and off he went in a huff.

Buffish Mining Bee (Andrena nigroaena) on Early Spider Orchid.

It was such a great experience that 3 days later I tried again, this time with Lisa. Needless to say we didn't see this happen again, although it was good to see that a few more orchids had appeared. I only took a very small number of shots, but once again, one orchid did look particularly worthy of a couple of photos.

Early Spider Orchid.