This week I will highlight just a few of the super cool pollination strategies used by orchids, illustrated by yours truly.
1. Sex Appeal
In addition to mimicking the looks of a female wasp, these orchids also produce the chemical compounds that mimic the pheromones used by wasps. Female insects produce chemical signals comprised of blends of volatile compounds. The chemical identity and relative concentration of chemicals act as species-specific signatures. Amazingly, sexually deceptive orchids have evolved to produce compound blends with remarkable similarity to the wasp’s pheromones.
The Mediterranean orchid species, Ophrys mammosa, uses both visual and chemical cues to attract the male wasp, Andrena fuscosa. The female’s velvety body with reflective blue pattern and shiny blue eyes are part of the orchid’s flower.