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Agonopterix kaekeritziana
find out more... Agonopterix kaekeritziana 2 Copyright: Peter Furze

Essex Field Club
Essex Field Club
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The weblog below is for naturalists to use to report interesting sightings, ask questions, report on field meetings and generally post pictures and any information or questions generally relevant in some way to the wildlife and geology of Essex. You will need to register and be logged-on to post to the forum, and you need to upload pictures first, for use in posts. Find out more


Mon 10th August 2009 17:06 by Mary Smith
answer to bee orchid query
Sorry I did not see this piece earlier about finding bee orchids.  They are wonderful exotic-looking plants, but actually they are now quite common, increasing in the whole of UK, especially in the more northern areas where they have been scarce. In the area I am familiar with, eastern part of LB Havering and western areas of Thurrock especially, I could take you to at least 6 places where bee orchids would be found in June, some places having over 100 plants. These orchids are abundant in the Mediterranean area, so it is not surprising that global warming is allowing them to thrive in UK.

It is hard to conserve them, since each plant does not last long, mostly dying after their first flowering. But the sort of places that you find them most are slightly disturbed areas of rather poor soil (sand or chalk especially), such as by footpaths or in lightly trampled areas, or where the sward is very thin, as the bee orchids cannot compete against the big perennial grasses. But an area grazed by horses often has small bare patches where a hoof has made a dent or hole in the vegetation, and if the grazing pattern you use is continued the bee orchids may well appear for years, but mostly in slightly different places each year.

More interesting than the normal flowers are the frequent mutations that occur. This is because in Britain every flower pollinates itself, as the pollinators (a kind of bee in the Genus Eucera) are very rare in UK, but common in the Med area. Even in the Med area, bee orchids often self-pollinate if a Eucera bee is too late arriving at the plant. The self-pollination means that many mutations occur as there is insufficient variety in the genetic stock so damaged genes often combine and cause a novel plant.  Recently a plant was found in my area with no 'bee' at all, but 3 pink sepals, as usual, and another set of identical pink petals, so it looked more like a small lily with 6 simlar 'petals'. Because bee orchids are getting more common, we would expect the number with mutations to increase too, so keep your eyes peeled!

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