If it looks like a bee and smells like a bee, it may be a flower

Plant enthusiasts head to the Carmel mountain range in northern Israel to catch some last glimpses of springtime bee orchids, displaying one of nature’s most extraordinary examples of cunning.

Bee orchids trick male insects into “having sex” with them so they can dab them with sticky balls of pollen and use them to help fertilize other orchid flowers.

To male bees or wasps, the finely marked, velvety flowers of the orchid not only resemble real female maidens, but also smell and feel.

The plant uses the same amount of the same sex pheromones that female insects use to attract male suitors.

Each species of orchid in the genus Ophrys casts its spell over a particular species of pollinating insect.

Bee orchids, of which there are about 40 species, including nine in Israel, grow mainly in the eastern Mediterranean, although they are found as far away as England, Scandinavia, the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea.

Like all orchids, they are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and should not be picked or disturbed.

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