Report on Portland Bee Orchids from young scientist Izzy

Have you ever wanted to know about bee orchids? Izzy, from Portland, found her first Bee orchids this year and has written a research paper for people to read, and learn about these amazing native flowers:

Bee Orchids

I ‘m writing about the bee orchid to say how amazing the bee orchid really is. I saw my first Bee orchid on the cliffs near our house on Portland and I nearly screamed at my Mum I was so excited because we had been looking for the bee orchid for ages and I finally found them! We saw five.

 What is a bee orchid?  The Ophrys Apifera known in Europe as the Bee Orchid and it is really clever. It has evolved to make its lip look like a Female Orchid Bee and makes a smell like a female Orchid bee. It attracts male Orchid bees because they think it is a female Orchid bee, so the male comes and pollenates the flower which is really sneaky and clever.  We do not have orchid bees in this country, so they self-pollinate which is also really clever.

Where can you find them in the World? They grow in Europe as well as North Africa and the Middle East but its most common in the Mediterranean region. 

What conditions do they need?  It needs bright light or slight shade. It grows in grassland, on limestones, open woodland, chalky soils, and sand dunes. I found them by the cliffs on Portland and Portland stone is Limestone which is chalky. Bee orchids rely on a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi (which means they help each other and get help them grow from working together) to get nutrients from the soil.

What type of orchid are they?  The Bee orchid is a perennial herbaceous plant (which means they live more than two years) which grows from a big thick stem and grow into the ground (terrestrial). They grow 15-20 centimetres and 6-20 inches high. 

What flowers does it have? It grows about twelve little flowers that are the same size as little moths with a stripy, brown, yellow and white lip with green tops attached to the pollen to make them like female bees but with purple rosette wings which I think is lovey.

Bee orchids, why are they important? Apart from having really amazing flowers, because of the symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi they tell us how the soil is. If there are Bee Orchids then there is less pollution because they are very sensitive to chemicals which would kill them so I think we should look after them. 

I really love Bee Orchids and I hope you can find and love them too


Join the Discussion


  1. Mary Pharaoh says:

    Hi Izzy,

    I’m also a BOS member and am very impressed by your interesting & very researched article on Portland Bee orchid. I could feel your joy at finding your 1st Bee. In addition to the Purbecks I have also seen them at Badbury Rings this year.

    Well done, Mary

    • Nick Fry says:

      Hi Izzy,

      You have produced another fine piece about orchids. I can see how you are advancing in your writing. Your passion for your chosen subject comes across so well that it is bound to encourage others to take up the fascinating, and important, journey with orchids. Well done to you.

      Noting the high content of your charming articles, and noting that some BOS member do not have a computer, may I please encourage you to submit your pieces to Allan Burdis (allanburdis@hotmail.com) for inclusion in our monthly newsletter. I feel that your passion will inspire other members to seek out our local orchids which is so important.

      I can’t wait to see your next creation

      Take care