Photo in the News: New "Wasp" Orchids Tempt Male Bugs

picture of hammer orchid
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July 17, 2007—It may look enticing, but this "female wasp" (left) is all stalk.

That's because this temptress is actually a recently discovered hammer orchid, a flower that has evolved to resemble the body of a female wasp. Hapless male wasps are lured to land on—and thus pollinate—the flower.

The orchid is one of six new species found in the biologically rich region of southwestern Australia.

Other orchid species have evolved to use similar cunning to attract male wasps, such as emitting an airborne chemical that mimics a female's pheromone.

Andrew Brown of Western Australia's Department of Environment and Conservation worked with Royal Botanic Gardens director Stephen Hopper to study the newfound species.

"This is an exciting discovery because it highlights the fact that so much of our natural environment is yet to be discovered and documented," Brown said in a statement.

Several of the orchid species are threatened by pressures such as invasive species and illegal harvesting.

—Christine Dell'Amore

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