As summer arrives so do the bulk of the orchids and the downlands of Dorset start to reveal their best kept secrets of the winter months. Although an exotic looking species the bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) is fairly common on our chalk grassland, both by the sea and more inland, as well as in our quarries, especially on Portland.
This flower is called the bee orchid because it looks like a bumble bee. Some might say this plant has evolved to look like a bee to encourage male bumble-bees to try and mate with it and so spread pollen; others might claim the resemblance is purely coincidental and the connection is man-made based purely on appearance rather than botanical development. It is true that they can be pollinated by bees but personally I cannot believe any self-respecting male bumble-bee would mistake this flower head for the real thing!
The bee orchid is always a welcome sight as it brings variety and a bit of excitement to botanical walks in summer! There is an unusual sub-species known as the wasp orchid that occurs on the Purbeck cliffs but I have never seen one.