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Image of the Day: Sweet Lure

Thought to be a nectar con artist, the candy spider-orchid actually does feed its pollinators, a select group of bees.

Jan 18, 2019
Carolyn Wilke

ABOVE: The candy spider-orchid (Caladenia versicolor) with a pollinator bee (Leioproctus platycephalus)
NOUSHKA REITER

Despite its sweet-sounding name, the candy spider-orchid (Caladenia versicolor) was thought to deceive pollinators, only looking and smelling like it rewarded them with nectar. New research shows the flower doesn’t leave pollinators high and dry after all, researchers reported on December 20 in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.

Scientists found that this orchid produces tiny amounts of nectar that feed its nearly exclusive pollinator, male beesof the species Leioproctus platycephalus. Once widespread in the Australian state of Victoria, the candy spider-orchid faces threats from animal grazing and habitat and is now only found in a few locations. Their nearly exclusive pairing means conservation and reintroduction efforts also have to consider the bees, say the authors. 

N. Reither et al., “Pollination of an endangered Caladenia species (Orchidaceae) by nectar-foraging behaviour of a widespread species of colletid bee,” Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, doi:10.1093/botlinnean/boy074, 2018.

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