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Some flowers go to extraordinary lengths to attract pollinators. Bee orchids mimic the shape and scent of bees in order to lure them into ‘pseudocopulation’, where the male insect attempts to mate with the flower.
While the bee gets nothing but a wasted effort, the orchid transfers some of its pollen to the bee. When the bee flies off and lands on another orchid it deposits the pollen, allowing the flowers to reproduce.
Despite the elaborate deception, bee orchids also engage in self-pollination, transferring pollen from the male to the female parts of the same plant. The late spider orchid however is pollinated solely by sexual deception involving insects, which means the flower is a much rarer sight.
Join Museum botanist Fred Rumsey on the North Downs in Kent as he hunts for these clever orchids.
... or that it helped you learn something new. Now we're wondering if you can help us.
Every year, more people are reading our articles to learn about the challenges facing the natural world. Our future depends on nature, but we are not doing enough to protect our life support system.
British wildlife is under threat. The animals and plants that make our island unique are facing a fight to survive. Hedgehog habitats are disappearing, porpoises are choking on plastic and ancient woodlands are being paved over.
But if we don't look after nature, nature can't look after us. We must act on scientific evidence, we must act together, and we must act now.
Despite the mounting pressures, hope is not lost. Museum scientists are working hard to understand and fight against the threats facing British wildlife.
For many, the Museum is a place that inspires learning, gives purpose and provides hope. People tell us they 'still get shivers walking through the front door', and thank us for inspiring the next generation of scientists.
To reverse the damage we've done and protect the future, we need the knowledge that comes from scientific discovery. Understanding and protecting life on our planet is the greatest scientific challenge of our age. And you can help.
We are a charity and we rely on your support. No matter the size, every gift to the Museum is critical to our 300 scientists' work in understanding and protecting the natural world.
From as little as £2, you can help us to find new ways to protect nature. Thank you.