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Better than a local lady

Orchids that mimic out-of-town females smell sexy to male bees

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12:40pm, May 27, 2008

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.

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