Monday, November 13, 2006

Orchid Bee from Central America

"an orchid bee from Central America...

Euglossa viridissima...the male orchid bee gathers... fragrances produced by species of Gongora, Stanhopea and Lycaste orchids and uses them in courtship....male orchid bee lands on a flower and secretes lipids from glands around his mouth onto the flower petal to dissolve the fragrance compounds. He then uses special brushes on his front legs to mop them up. After lots of brushing and mopping, he hovers a few inches above the flower and transfers the compounds to special pouches in his hind legs. Then he goes back to mopping.If a female orchid bee wanders into his territory, he places a touch of perfume on velvety pads on his middle legs, which he then fans to send the enticement in her direction."In its native habitats in Mexico and Central America, male orchid bees are attracted primarily to specially blended fragrances concocted by orchids...[Bob] Pemberton [a USDA entomologist in Fort Lauderdale]... worked with USDA chemist Gregory Wheeler on a paper published in August that spells out which aromatic compounds are collected by these... male bees in Florida. The scientists removed compounds from the leg pockets, and found 27 components of orchid perfumes...Both male and female orchid bees eat nectar for food and pollinate...Female orchid bees hover and dart into different flowers to collect bits of pollen and resin for the brood nest...The female... has the ability to ''buzz pollinate'' -- vibrate her flight muscles to free pollen grains in cylindrical anthers -- or simply gather pollen that falls from open anthers."
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