Information on Bee Orchid

Common Name: Bee Orchid
Scientific Name: Ophrys apifera
Irish Name: Magairlín na mbeach
Family Group: Orchidaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
Bee Orchid is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.


On dry, sandy soil, dunes and limestone pastures, in June and July this is such a delight to find.  There is no problem identifying a Bee Orchid from all other orchids – its lovely gold and brown velvety lower lip is patterned to resemble the back end of a visiting bumblebee, this in order to attract a similar insect and thereby assist in pollinating the plant.  This perennial orchid grows to about 30-40cm high with an erect stem which is clasped by two oblong, lanceolate leaves. Several other leaves form a basal rosette.  The unmistakeable flowers are borne in spikes and have three spreading pink sepals, two short green upper petals and a large round lower petal which is deep brown and has gold markings. This is a native plant and it belongs to the family Orchidaceae.     

I am very grateful to Janet Whelehan, a fellow member of the Wexford Naturalists' Field Club* for bringing me to the site at which I photographed these Bee Orchids. It was south of Arklow, Co Wicklow in June 2009. * www.wexfordnaturalists.com

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Orchid, Bee
Orchid, Bee

All wild plants are given some measure of protection in Northern Ireland under the Wildlife (NI) Order, 1985.  The Bee Orchid listed in Schedule 8, parts 1 and 2, is given special protection.

To learn more about our Irish orchids, I would heartily recommend a really superb book on the subject which is published by the Collins Press and entitled 'Ireland's Wild Orchids - a field guide'. 

Each of our native orchids is beautifully illustrated by the gifted botanical artist, Susan Sex and is an exquisite representation of an amazing plant; Susan's illustrations are complemented by carefully-chosen words from our National Botanic Gardens orchid specialist, Brendan Sayers. Susan's illustrations of key features of our native orchids are extremely useful when trying to identify a species and Brendan's descriptions help to broaden one's understanding of this complex and intriguing subject, and lead one nearer to making a possible identification. He also contributes information on the conservation of these magnificent little plants and gives details of where they might be found. Please seek out this masterpiece from your usual bookseller or find it on http://www.collinspress.ie/irelands-wild-orchids.html