Orchids Under Attack!

Some orchids are under attack by hornets, and that’s how they like it. According to the journal Current Biology, scientists have discovered that a Dendrobium species native to the Chinese island of Hainan uses an ingenious trick to attract hornet pollinators. Dendrobium sinense produces a chemical compound that mimics an “alarm pheromone,” a scent that bees emit when they are in distress. Predatory hornets think they’re finding a free lunch, and swoop in to attack the flower. Instead of lunch, however, they leave with orchid pollen attached to them. When they fall for the trick again, they transfer the pollen and pollinate the orchid.

Orchids have amazed scientists for years with the multitude of methods they have evolved to attract pollinators. Many use the tried-and-true floral method of offering nectar. Others, like Lady Slippers and Pterostylis, temporarily trap an insect and force it to exit past their pollen. Some species have chemical fragrances to fool insects into thinking they’re finding a mate. But this trick of luring in a predator has never been seen before. Undoubtedly, there are many more surprises to learn from the sneaky orchid family.

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4 Comments on “Orchids Under Attack!”

  1. Marjory Says:

    When I saw the title I thought it would be about orchids being eaten by insects. I’m in Florida and have a lot of dendrobiums outside in my garden, and the new flowers have been attached by aphids all summer. They are just destroying the flowers and I can’t get rid of them. I wonder if these wasps like to eat aphids!

  2. Angela Henry Says:

    Fascinatiang article! Thanks.

  3. Joy Blake Says:

    They’re orchids that smell like fear!

  4. GreenThumbGuy Says:

    Sounds like the orchids like it rough!