Ophrys insectifera - Fly Orchid

Scientific Name: Ophrys insectifera – 'ophrys' = Greek for 'eyebrow', a reference to the velvety labellum (lower petal); 'insectifera' is from the Latin, meaning 'insect bearer'.

English Name: Fly Orchid.

French Name: Ophrys mouche (= 'Fly Ophrys').

5 Key Characters:
  • labellum (bottom petal) a rich dark velvety purply brown (sometimes edged with yellow).
  • central shiny blue or greyish more or less rectangular patch.
  • sepals (the three larger upper 'petals') green.
  • the two upper true petals short, fine, forward pointing and dark purply brown.
  • difficult to spot amongst the grass because the plants are so slender and blend in to the surroundings.
Lookalikes: unmistakeable in the area this website covers, although known to hybridise with O. fuciflora, O. scolopax, O. araneola, O. aranifera, O. passionis and O. apifera. The species is easy to recognise and doesn't vary in appearance significantly.

Habitat: Full sun to semi-shade (seems to prefer situations with a bit of shade); short dry lightly grazed grassland with shrubs, open woodland , woodland edges, on calcareous (chalky or limey) soils. Mainly pollinated by the Field Digger Wasp Argogorytes mystaceus and A. campestris. The species can self-pollinate however, as evidenced by the fact that the wasps that pollinate it in France do not occur in Britain, and they normally self-pollinate there.

Flowering Period: April-May-June-July.

Status: Locally common in the area covered by this website, particularly in the Vienne, Indre, Indrois and Claise river valleys, around Ligueil and on the limestone grasslands of the Sologne (eg La Butte des Blumonts). Can be seen within 5km of Preuilly-sur-Claise.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

A male digger wasp Argogorytes mystaceus attempting to copulate with a flower, which has fooled the wasp into thinking it is a female wasp by emitting a pheromone that closely matches that of the female wasps. This wasp is a well known and important pollinator of Fly Orchids, but not very often observed and even less often photographed in action, so I am quite pleased with this photo. Taken May 2015, on private land at La Muanne, near Chaumussay.

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