A Mediterranean orchid that is pollinated exclusively by a single species of wasp

Ophrys speculum is an easy to recognize orchid, owing to its vivid blue, glossy, enamel-like lip, which is fringed with long, red-brown hairs. It is as if the flower reflects the sky of the Mediterranean, where this striking orchid is found; ‘speculum’ means mirror in Latin.

Commonly named as Mirror orchid, Mirror bee orchid, and Looking-glass orchid, Ophrys speculum is widespread in the Mediterranean, from Portugal and Spain in the west to Turkey and Lebanon in the east and also in North Africa. However, it is absent from Cyprus and much of Italy, and is rare in France and Crete.

This species is pollinated exclusively by the wasp Dasyscolia ciliata. Males are lured by the flower, which resembles the female wasp. The flower and wasp are both hairy and the blue patch on the lip appears to mimic the reflection of the sky on the wasp’s wings. Moreover, the floral scent resembles the mating pheromones of the female wasps, and males become highly excited and try to copulate with the flowers, pollinating them in the process.


Top photo: Ophrys speculum from Spain by ©Miguel Olivera 

Bottom photo: Pseudocopulation between Dasyscolia ciliata and Ophrys speculum by ©Carlos Enrique Hermosilla

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