Pale Bee Orchids

Latest sightings
Picture of Ophrys apifera var chlorantha
Ophrys apifera var chlorantha (Bee Orchid). Photo: Jacqui Hutson

My husband, back from an early morning bird watch on 5 June, told me that there were lots of bee orchids in a site we visit regularly and that some of them were very pale in colour. We went back that evening and I was excited to see that most of the orchids were the pale variety Ophrys apifera var chlorantha. We had never seen bee orchids there before. In Wild Orchids of Sussex David Lang had said that they were widespread but uncommon in Sussex. Records exist from near Beachy Head in 1913, 1915 and 1918, where they still grow. In 1985 between 200 and 300 spikes were recorded near Birling Gap and David had seen them on Mount Caburn between 1967 and 1972 as well as on the Downs near Willingdon. I sent David a photograph and he came over the next day to view them and helped us count them: 124 of the pale form with 27 of the normal species.

Picture of Ophrys apifera (Bee Orchid)
Ophrys apifera (Bee Orchid). Photo: Jacqui Hutson