Orchids that mimic out-of-town females smell sexy to male bees
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then some orchid-pollinating bees are being snubbed. Rather than radiating the exact same scent as the local female bees, the orchids mimic the scent of out-of-town females, a new study finds. The male bees, it turns out, seek novelty and are more attracted to the scent of girl bees from a different neighborhood.
The spectacular display of orchid cunning suggests that researchers should look twice at the notion of “flawed mimicry,” especially those where non-exact mimics have been presumed to be imperfect. And research should pay special attention to behavioral and sensory aspects of mimicry systems.
orchids are known for exploiting several species of male bees by mimicking the
scent of female bees. In the new study, Nicolas Vereecken of the Free
University of Brussels in
Because there are more male than female bees in these populations, and because females are thought to mate only once, the scientists think it is unlikely that the orchids’ antics will drive evolution in female bees.
Vereecken, N.J., and F.P. Schiestl. 2008. The evolution of imperfect floral mimicry. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105(May 27):21. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0800194105