When Is a Bee Not a Bee?
Bees lead busy lives, visiting hundreds of flowers every day and transporting nectar back to the hive. When springtime comes, male bees look for a mate. For this, they rely on sight and smell. The attention of the shortsighted bee, however, is also solicited by an unlikely suitor—an orchid.
In southern Europe, there are several wild orchids whose fertilization depends on their mimicking female bees. These orchids need to send “parcels” of pollen to fellow orchids. Bees are the ideal carriers. But since the orchids do not have any tasty nectar to attract the bees, the orchids must resort to trickery, as it were. And the trick is that the flower looks and smells so much like a female bee that the male bee tries to mate with it! Each species of these orchids has its own disguise and aroma.
By the time the bee realizes his mistake, the orchid has deposited a sticky packet of pollen on his body. The bee then flies off, only to be fooled again by another orchid, which receives the pollen. After several such deceptions, the bee realizes that these orchids are not to be trusted. By then, he will likely have pollinated some of the flowers.
How did these unthinking orchids acquire the right smell and appearance to fool the bees? Such remarkable mechanisms testify to an intelligent Designer, whose creation never fails to astonish and fascinate.