Does bee or wasp mimicry by orchid flowers also deter herbivores?
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- Lev-Yadun, S. & Ne’eman, G. Arthropod-Plant Interactions (2012) 6: 327. doi:10.1007/s11829-012-9199-y
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General visual bee mimicry and specific chemical mimicry by flowers to solitary female bees or wasps are well known in several orchid genera, for example, the Mediterranean genus Ophrys, the Australian genera Cryptostylis and Chiloglottis, and the South-African Disa. This mimicry has been shown to attract solitary male bees or wasps, which are their species-specific pollinators. The visual and chemical signals are considered to be a type of deceptive pollination mechanism based on mimicry for the exploitation of perceptual biases of animals. We propose that in addition to this unique pollination mechanism, these plants exhibit another, rarely mentioned and practically forgotten, non-exclusive function of bee or wasp mimicry (Batesian mimicry). This mimicry may deter large mammalian herbivores, and possibly also insects from the plants and especially from their flowers by a type of visual and olfactory deceptive aposematism. While visiting the flowers, bees and wasps may add a Müllerian effect to this defense. We extend this hypothesis to many other rewarding flowers that are bee or wasp pollinated and propose that abundance of pollinating bees or wasps may deter herbivorous mammals and insects from the plants during their peak flowering season.