Orchid Bees Are Critical to Conservation
Other orchids use sexual deception. They produce flowers that look or smell like female insects, usually bees or wasps. Males are drawn to the. A euglossine bee collects scent from an orchid. Orchids have some of the most remarkable pollination relationships of all the flowering plants. Relationships Are Tough: Orchid Bees and Orchids. July 22, | By Intern Osa Conservation. Have you ever seen the Exaerete, the bright green bee as long.
Three large, diverse groups of orchids transport pollen by generating bee-attractive scent compounds, then saddling any bee who comes to collect the scent with a packet of pollen.
From the outside, this looks like a mutually beneficial relationship. The bees get their perfume, the orchids a pollen transporter.
Over millions of years, such an interaction should lead bees and orchids to diversify together—when one orchid species splits into two, the bees that collect scent from them might very well speciate with the orchids.
The study by a team out of Harvard—lead-authored by Santiago R. First, as I noted above, a mutually-dependent relationship should mean that bee and orchid species often form in tandem, and that the euglossine bees and the orchids have spent most of their histories together.
Second, the euglossines should rely mainly on scents from orchids, not from other sources. Finally, euglossines and orchids should show similar degrees of dependency. An orchid that relies on only one bee species should use a bee species that only collects scent from that one orchid; bees that collect scent from multiple orchids should use orchids that are, themselves, involved with multiple bee species. To test the first prediction, the coauthors reconstructed evolutionary relationships among the euglossine bees, and within three families of scent-producing orchids.
Orchid Bees (The Euglossines)
Living in the rainforests of the New World are species of the world's most flamboyant bees. The "orchid bees" the euglossini tribe within the bee family Apidae are found in forests from Mexico to southeastern Brazil. They are easily distinguished from other bees by their extremely long thin tongues, which can equal twice the length of the body, and their shiny metallic coloration.
They also have fewer hairs than most other bees. Orchid bees are living jewels. Most kinds are dark green and shiny with sparse hairs, but they can be brilliant blue, purple, red, gold, brassy, or a mixture of these colors on the head, thorax, and abdomen.
Orchid Bees (The Euglossines)
The genera within the tribe are Eufriesia, Euglossa, Eulaema, Exaerete, and Aglae, the last two genera are parasitic on other orchid bees. Eulaema are as large as carpenter bees or bumblebee queens, densely black in coloration and densely hairy, but often with wide yellow, orange, or greenish stripes on the abdomen.
Why mention such tropical bees on a website devoted to pollinators within the United States?
Orchid bees have recently become a part of our continental American fauna. Along with 22 other species of introduced bees, an orchid bee Euglossa viridissima has become naturalized in several areas of Florida where it now routinely visits orchids, other flowers and scent resources.
- Timing is everything: In which an intimate relationship turns out to be rather one-sided
Its population seems stable and expanding into new areas. There is also a record of Eulaema from a single specimen in southern Arizona.
The Evolution of the Orchid and the Orchid Bee
One thing makes euglossine bees unique and different from other pollinating bees. The males interact in highly specialized behaviors with equally complex and bizarre orchid flowers. Certain neotropical orchids especially the genera Catasetum, Gongora, Stanhopea, and Vanilla produce strong "medicinal" or flavoring scents that attract orchid bee males to their blossoms from a great distance.
Scents including those of eucalyptus, vanilla, and wintergreen are found in the complex scents of euglossine-pollinated orchids.