Bee Orchid

Ophrys apifera

  1. Wildlife
  2. Wildflowers
  3. Bee Orchid

About

The Bee Orchid gets its name from its main pollinator - the bee - which is thought to have driven the evolution of the flowers. To attract the pollinating bees, the plant has evolved bee-like flowers; drawing them in with the promise of love, the bees are naturally attracted to the flowers and fly in to attempt a mating. As they land on the velvet-textured lip of the flower, the pollen is transferred and the poor bee is left frustrated. Sadly, the right species of bee doesn't occur in the UK, so Bee Orchids are self-pollinated here. Look out for their diminutive flower spikes on dry, chalk and limestone grasslands from June to July.

How to identify

A small orchid, the Bee Orchid has a rosette of leaves at ground level and two leaves that grow up the stem as a sheath. The stem displays a number of relatively large flowers with pink sepals that look like wings and furry, brown lips that have yellow markings just like a bee.

Where to find it

Found throughout the UK, although scarce in the north.

Habitats

When to find it

  • June
  • July

How can people help

Areas of rare and unique wildlife, chalk grasslands have been likened to rainforest for the diversity of species they hold. But they are being lost at an alarming rate due to changes in land use causing the decline of grazing: it's estimated that we've lost 80% of our chalk grassland over the last 60 years. The Wildlife Trusts manage many grassland nature reserves for the benefit of the rare wildlife they hold by using traditional management methods such as autumn grazing and scrub clearance. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from flower surveys to stockwatching.

Species information

Common name
Bee Orchid
Latin name
Ophrys apifera
Category
Wildflowers
Statistics
Height: up to 30cm
Conservation status
Common.