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Bug of the Week is written by "The Bug Guy," Michael J. Raupp, Professor of Entomology at the University of Maryland.

Destination Sarasota, Florida: Green and gorgeous Green orchid bee, 'Euglossa dilemma'


The arrival of green orchid bees in Florida has added one more flamboyant insect to a long list of arrivals from other lands. Photo credit: Paula Shrewsbury, UMD


Bug of the Week welcomes in the New Year and continues its warm weather peregrinations with a stop in Sarasota to visit spectacular Selby Gardens and green orchid bees. This fanciful garden established through the William and Marie Selby Foundation specializes in epiphytic plants and is loaded with fantastic insects from the US and beyond. Orchids abound at Selby and are among the most selective of all flowering plants with respect to their choice of faithful pollinators. Many orchids depend on but a few or sometimes just a single species of insect for pollination. Some orchids mimic in appearance and odor female orchid bees in order to attract unwitting males for the task of pollination. When first detected in southeastern Florida in 2003, this beautiful native of Mexico was thought to be Euglossa viridissima, but further analysis revealed it as a new species, Euglossa dilemma. In its invaded range in Florida, the bee now pollinates a relatively wide range of plants, including several species of weedy plants in addition to ornamental ones. The amazing long proboscis, or tongue, is used to reach nectar found in the deep corollas of tubular flowers.  

Watch the amazing proboscis of the stunning green orchid bee as it removes nectar from this Pentas star flower.

Like many pollen-gathering bees, including our honey bee, the hind legs of the female bee are equipped with baskets called corbiculae. Here the female gathers and stores pollen and plant resins for transport back to her nest site and brood cells where bee larvae await their meal of nectar and pollen. Male green orchid bees lack pollen baskets but their greatly enlarged hind legs are equipped with a special chamber used to store and later release aromatic compounds gathered from flowers, vegetation, and other environmental sources. These fragrances are dispensed by the males and wafted about by fanning their wings to woo their mates. Males are apparently quite choosy in which fragrances demonstrate their superiority to a prospective mate. In the case of our green orchid bee, in addition to floral odors, the bouquet of decomposing vegetation and decaying wood seem to be much valued by hopeful males as they prepare to win the attention of a mate. One can only hope that the male green orchid bee scented with arôme de champignon does not suffer the same fate as poor Pepé Le Pew.


Bug of the Week thanks delightful Selby Gardens for the inspiration for this episode and Dr. Shrewsbury for her remarkable image of the male green orchid bee. The interesting articles “ Potential distribution of orchid bees outside their native range: The cases of Eulaema polychroma (Mocsáry) and Euglossa viridissima Friese in the USA (Hymenoptera: Apidae)” by Ismael A. Hinojosa‐Díaz,Teresa P. Feria‐Arroyo, and Michael S. Engel, and “The Featured Creature Green Orchid Bee” byAaron Mullins found at this link were used to prepare this episode. "