Misguided Love Going Astray

Effects of Climate Change 1.6

The birds and the bees.

For this observation in the domino effects of climate change, we’ll be focusing on the ‘bees’ portion of this euphemism. And it’s true, a relationship is getting out of sync: the one between the Andrena nigroaenea bees and the Ophrys sphegodes (Early spider orchids).

Let’s talk about it

Perhaps you’ve already noticed, but the orchid’s petals, or labellum, looks somewhat like a bee. It also smells like the female bee of this species. A common phenomenon in nature, pseudocopulation is a way that orchids attract pollinators, such as bees, to get pollinated since the males mistake the petal as a female. In the end, the orchid gets what it wants, and the bee moves on and becomes deceived by different orchid, spreading the love.

Photo credit: http://www.bwars.com/sites/www.bwars.com/files/styles/largest__950x750_/public/species_images/Andrena-nigroaenea_11lh.jpg?itok=ucXF6Pa-

The A. nigroaenea bees nest in the ground. (And yes, I’m sure that their home is pretty dirty…they are living in soil).

  • They are solitary, and the earliest bees to hatch during the spring. The males usually hatch before the females, and since there aren’t many females to mate with, the orchids are ready for them.

Here’s where climate change is causing a problem in this steady, synced relationship between the bees and orchids:

Things are heating up, by which I mean that increases in temperature is changing the phenology of this relationship.

Researchers found that the flight date for A. nigroaenea is pushed earlier as a result of warmer temperatures that have now become more commonplace in the spring. Each additional degree of warming resulted in male bees hatching 9 days earlier than normal, females is 16 days earlier, but for the orchids, only 6 days earlier.

Connecting the dots, we can understand that this means that there are more females for the male bees to mate with since they’re starting to hatch and begin flight around the same time. This also means that orchids may soon be out of luck.


Less males pollinating the orchids may result in less seeds being produced, resulting in a lack of new plants.

Let’s bee mindful of animal/plant relationships on Earth — some relationships aren’t easy to fix,

Claudia A.


McSweeney, R. Climate change puts bees and flowering plants out of sync | Carbon Brief https://www.carbonbrief.org/climate-change-puts-bees-and-flowering-plants-out-of-sync (accessed Oct 9, 2016).

Pseudocopulation in orchids https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/pseudocopulation-in-orchids/ (accessed Oct 9, 2016).

Robbirt, K. M.; Roberts, D. L.; Hutchings, M. J.; Davy, A. J. Potential Disruption of Pollination in a Sexually Deceptive Orchid by Climatic Change http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/s0960982214013426 (accessed Oct 9, 2016).

Will Plants and Pollinators Get Out of Sync? http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/bees/bees3.php (accessed Oct 9, 2016).