Orchid bees have to be some of the most glamorous insects in the rainforest – their shiny bodies of metallic blue, green, purple, and orange glint in the tropical sun as they forage through the canopy in search of fragrances. What? Fragrances? If you thought bees were only interested in nectar - think again! Orchid bees like nectar too and but male orchid bees also roam the canopy in search of special fragrant chemicals. They collect the fragrances and use them to create the equivalent of “orchid bee aftershave” which they put on display to attract females during their courtship rituals.
Orchid bees are a remarkable group of insect pollinators that are found in the lowland rainforests of Central and South America.
Male orchid bees have unique, specialized structures for gathering and storing chemical fragrances that naturally occur in the bees’ habitat, such as those from orchid flowers. When a male orchid bee finds a fragrance it likes, it lands on its surface and collects the fragrance using special “mop” like features on its front legs. Once he has collected all the fragrance he can, the male bee then transfers the fragrance to large pouches on his hind legs. See photo! During our rainforest workshops in Peru we use essential oils to attract orchid bees. One of their favorite scents is wintergreen.