Debora Dale Alt logo
where fear and passion collide
Debora Dale Alt logo
where fear and passion collide

I recently came upon some photographs I took at the 2008 NY Botanical Gardens Orchid Show and was reminded how amazing these flowers are. In fact, I posted about my visit to the Gardens and included photos of amazing orchids of various shapes and colors. Some of them are simply stunning. Some, quite odd. If you’d like to see that post, you can find it here – Orchids

Anyway, after looking at the pictures, I did some research on orchids, wondering about those odd shapes and colors. I learned quite a lot.

Some orchids, it seems, have evolved to mimic the shape of female wasps, thus luring male wasps to them with ease. On the surface, this sounds like a science class, but to me it is so much more.

It’s romance. It’s horror. It’s physiological and psychological manipulation, self-serving behavior, and eugenics all rolled into one. It’s the be-all of Amazonian dominance.

Let’s start at the beginning…

When male and female wasps mate, they produce female offspring. Females, when they reproduce without a male – because, yes, they can do that – produce male offspring. But, these orchids are so lovely, plentiful and submissive that male wasps often find them more attractive than their real-life counterparts.

I think sex toys and internet porn. No back-talk, no “nagging”, no mother-in-law issues and no not-now-I’ve-got-a-headache speeches. Oh. Wait. That’s a human thing…


Orchids attract wasps for their own self-serving reasons. Reproduction. By luring these boys to them, pollination is sure to occur. That’s great for the orchid, not so great for the wasp. As these boys consummate the joining with their lovely flower, they exert more energy than they should and lose body mass.

Sex, done right, is quite a workout even for wasps. Apparently.

For your viewing pleasure… if you’re into this sort of thing…

Here are mating wasps…

Photo copyright Randy Harrison 2008

And here is a male wasp ‘mating’ with an orchid…

Photo copyright - Rod Peakall 2007

Orchids benefit twice from this mating trickery. Not only are they assured their species will live on – as if an orchid has the capacity to be ‘assured’ – but while males are mating with them, females are left to reproduce on their own. And when that happens, remember, more males wasps are created. And that guarantees the continuance of the orchid.

No wonder we admire orchids so much. They’re self-confident, exotic, sexy, and in total control of their present and their future. If I didn’t mind setting down roots somewhere and having creepy crawlies having their way with me, I might not mind being an orchid.

Ah, to be so alluring…

Next time you gaze at a stunningly odd-shaped orchid, admire the colors veined through it, its thick petals, proud stature, try to keep in mind it is a wonder of nature and not, no matter what you’ve read here, simply a wasp-sized blow-up doll.