Honeybee Orchid (Ophrys apifera)

It is a fact that orchids stand out not only for their beauty, but for the number of classes and/ or variations that exist throughout the world. Some are very simple while others surprise with their physical characteristics, this is how the Ophrys apifera or better known as the bee orchid is noted among many of its kind.

Today is the turn to talk about this kind of orchid that at first glance is curious because of its appearance similar to that of a bee. This is how you will learn interesting facts about this plant, and some details that you probably did not know.


This plant has European origin. The exact place where this species was first seen is not yet known, but what is known is that it has been seen in France, Italy, Spain and other countries. Especially Spain has multiple provinces where the growth of this species occurs easily.

Characteristics of the Ophrys apifera

Although it is usually known under the name of bee orchid, it also has well-known names such as bee orchid or bee flower. As for its scientific name, the word apifera is derived from Latin, and its translation is similar to bee.

This reference focuses mainly on the lip of the flower, which bears a strong resemblance to the abdomen of bees. This plant can basically live both in sunny places and in places where the sun falls on it partially.

But preferably it is better to have it in a place where it is sunny. Likewise, it can be planted in spaces where there are bushes and/ or riverside vegetation. The good news is that it can grow and live on any bank regardless of the type of substrate the soil has.

An important detail of the Ophrys apifera must be highlighted and that is that during the summer, it is in a dormant state. Which means that their development, growth and any physical activity is in suspension mode.

By the end of this season and early fall, it begins to develop a rosette of leaves. At the same time, the development of a new tuber makes its way. This will finish its maturation process the following spring, this being the moment where the stem begins to develop and as the flowering of the leaves progresses, they will wither.

It is not a plant that stands out for its height. Well, they do not get to measure more than 65 cm in height and they only manage to develop about 4 to 6 large leaves in total, of course they tend to be quite elongated and not so wide. In general, the leaves are flush with the ground, which highlights the stem that will later give life to the flower.

The inflorescence of Ophrys apifera is 4 to 12 flowers in total. Their sepals usually have different colors. Some may be white, others pink or failing that, a shade of dark purple. The curious thing about these flowers is that regardless of their color, a common characteristic among them is the central nerve that has the same color (green).

As for its lip, it has an incredible resemblance to the female of the bee. They even have hairs and some colors that will vary according to the color of their sepals. Specifically, they tend to be reddish-brown to blackish in color.

What does the bee flower need to live?

Open spaces for sunlight to fall on the plant

The main thing and what a large part of the orchid species need is a space where sunlight falls directly on them, although they are plants that can adapt to the environment and can grow and flourish if it is under the shadows. But yes, at some point in the day the sun has to reach them.

An important detail to note is that although the bee flower can survive if it is under constant sunlight. In the same way, it is recommended that it be kept in a place where the sun and the shade are always the same. An example could be to plant them somewhere where the sun hits them in the morning and in the afternoon they are already in the shade.

As for the temperature that they can withstand, it has been recorded and it is known that they can withstand cold temperatures and even winter snowfalls, as long as the sun is reflecting on them there will be no problems.

Low humidity soil

This is thanks to the fact that it is a species that basically comes from the Mediterranean. As far as humidity is concerned, as with many types of orchids, this one in particular does not support soils that have a high amount of humidity.

Therefore, it does not need constant watering and it has to be planted in a place where when watering it, the water can drain and flow without affecting the integrity of its roots. Since too much water and constant humidity will tend to rot the roots and eventually end up dying.

A soil with a specific substrate

The adaptability of Ophrys apifera  to different types of soils is admirable. However, this plant prefers the soil to be limestone. It is not a plant that demands too many requirements to be able to grow and flourish, since the truth is that it is very easy to grow this plant.

This facility does not imply that the corresponding measures do not have to be taken, so a detail that many ignore is the quality or type of substrate that are usually used to grow the plant or have them in gardens. It is not highly recommended to use any substrate to benefit the development of the plant.

It is preferable to use one that has qualities and characteristics similar to those usually seen in its natural habitat. This is not to mention that it is very weak when fungicides and/ or fertilizers are applied, since it is very prone to being negatively affected. Therefore, to know which fungicide and/ or fertilizer to use in what quantity to do it.

Moderate watering

Finally, what the plant needs to grow and live peacefully is moderate watering. This should be done as long as the substrate looks dry. Basically you have to limit yourself to watering the plant once or twice a month at most. Of course, this will depend a lot on the season and how quickly the soil where it is planted dries.

We recommend that you do not use tap water, as it can have too many levels of minerals. And although it seems incredible, it is a detail that does not favor the plant too much, so it is better to use bottled water or let the rain do its job.

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