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Arrowsmith Spider Orchid

The Arrowsmith Spider Orchid, scientifically known as Caladenia crebra.

The term “crebra” originates from Latin, meaning dense or abundant, describing the thick dark “hairs”

Belonging to the Caladenia genus, Caladenia crebra is but one of over 130 species of spider orchids found in Western Australia. Each species with its own features and adaptations.

The name Caladenia itself translates to “beautiful lip” in reference to its unique labellum. All orchids in the Caladenia genus, as well as several other orchids, possess a modified petal called a labellum. This labellum plays a crucial role in the orchid’s reproduction process.

The labellum of a spider orchid is hinged, and when an insect lands on it, the weight of the insect can cause it to tip, bringing the insect into contact with the pollen-bearing parts of the flower. This interaction enables the transfer of pollen.

Fun facts

Ah, behold the majestic spider orchid and its cunning plan to attract a winged suitor! Enter the dashing wasp, known by its fancy name Campylothynnus flavopictus.

Picture this: the wasp, mesmerized by the orchid’s charm, falls head over heels and can’t resist the alluring scent. Little does the wasp know, it’s being tricked by the orchid’s clever imitation of a wasp’s sex pheromone. Talk about the ultimate perfume scam!

Spider orchids have developed an uncanny resemblance to female wasps, both in appearance and fragrance. This orchid mimics the female wasp’s pheromones, exploiting their pollinators’ natural instincts.

When male wasps encounter these deceitful flowers, they mistake them for potential mates, inadvertently aiding in the orchid’s reproduction.

The specific species of wasp targeted by each spider orchid varies, as they have finely tuned their deceptive tactics to suit their preferred pollinator.

Through their devious tactics, spider orchids efficiently attract their desired pollinator, ensuring the continuation of their species.

Video by Rod Peakall at the Australian National University.

Campylothynnus flavopictus

A new born female wasp emerges from the ground, ready for some lovey-dovey action. She emits her pheromone, hoping to attract a mate. And guess what? It actually works! A male wasp swoops in, sweeps her off her feet (she is wingless), and takes her on a romantic adventure to feast on nectar-filled flowers.

But here’s the kicker: this is a one-way ticket. Once the mating is complete, the male gives the poor lady wasp a metaphorical “drop-off” and bids her farewell. Her task now is to dig under ground in search of beetle larva where she can lay her eggs.

And so the circle of life goes on. The female wasp’s offspring eventually hatch, carrying on the tradition of climbing and emitting seductive pheromones to find love.

Who knew the world of orchids and wasps had such romantic drama?