This is Part 2 in my series highlighting the awesome diversity of orchid pollination strategies. See Part 1 to learn about sexual deception in orchid species. Today we will investigate another strategy that orchids have evolved to attract insect pollinators:
Home Sweet Home
Lady slipper orchids, members of the genera Paphiopedilum and Cypripedium, are called slipper orchids because they have a cupped lower lip, or labellum. The flower often has coarse hairs, spots, and stripes, giving them an elegant and alien appearance. These features function to attract female bees.
Some species of bees lay their eggs among aphids to provide food for their newly hatched larvae, so they are looking for leaves covered in dark hairy spots. Other bees look for a dark hole or den to deposit their eggs. Seeking a good place to leave her young, the bee lands on the orchid, gets trapped inside the labellum, and carries pollen with her when she escapes.
This Cypripedium macranthos has a dark labellum, tricking the female Bombus bee into thinking she has found a good den in which to lay her eggs.