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These Orchids Look Just Like Buzzing Bees

The trick? It helps keep the flowers pollinated.

bee orchids
Photography by: membio / Getty

It's easy to group bumblebees into a terrifying family of things with wings that will certainly bite you (wasps, I'm looking at you). But they're undeniably cute! And the bee orchid is no exception.

 

Native to Europe (specifically Great Britain, Ireland, Turkey, Iran, and North Africa), the bee orchid—scientifically known as Ophrys apifera—is a sweet-smelling bloom with a clever little trick. The reason why it looks so much like a bumblebee is no delightful mistake. It actually helps the flower attract pollinators by bringing in male bees hoping to mate with the "bees" already on the flowers. Once the bees land, they transfer the pollen they picked up to other female plants, helping the spread and growth of the orchid's seeds.

 

And now, for a bit of trivia knowledge: There's a word for this doppelganger effect. The Royal Botanic Gardens' Kew Encyclopedia describes mimicry as phenomenon when "natural selection has favored a resemblance between individuals of different species." In this case, a bee and an orchid, in an effort to keep the pollination process ongoing.

 

[YOU'LL LOVE: Orchids That Look Just Like a Monkey's Face]
bee orchids
Photography by: Chris Atkinson / Getty

The funny part of it all is that the spread of bee orchid seeds mostly occur without any help from a pollinator. The seeds are wind-dispersed, meaning they will easily detach from the plant and ride off into the wind.

 

You can expect to see upwards of 10 flowers on the bare stems of the bee orchid. The petals are a deep pink, only adding to the blooms' appeal. While you can plant these at home, it won't be easy. Bee orchids prefer humid environments (think: the Mediterranean). But if you do manage to get yours hands on some of the seeds, expect them to grow during the winter months and bloom during the spring.

 

If anything, consider this the perfect visual trickery to play on your friends. 

 

Feeling inspired? Watch how to propagate succulents and start your garden today: