Bletilla formosana

Bletilla formosana
Full of beauty, but pretty deceptive: a flower of Bletilla formosana
Bletilla formosana
A Longhorn Bee is fueled by the faked promise for sex


The Bletilla Mystery


Orchids of the genus Bletilla are found in the subtropical regions of Japan, South East China and Taiwan. The genus consists of only five species that all do not produce any nectar, but form decorative, conspicuous flowers. They are obviously pollinated, but do not want to pay the service. Why do pollinators visit even though? A mystery...



Nothing to eat, but (fake) sex…


By patient observation the biologist Naoko Sugiura of Kobe University succeeded in 1995 to unveil the enigma. While common bees on the search for nectar rapidly move on, the males of the Longhorn Bee Tetralonia nipponensis are magically attracted by these flowers.


They creep inside and try to mate with the flower. During this stereotypic ritual, they get a pollen parcel glued to their frontlobe and fly after finishing the act of pseudocopulation to the next flower. The flower not only imitates the shape of a female, but even pretends by an irresistible perfume the willingness of a mating female! Prominent hair and warts at the lower lip of the flower ensure that the entire process provides even the right haptic stimulation. Only days later the real females hatch and resolve the fooled mailes from the claws of the faked Venus....