Get smart curated videos delivered to your inbox.   SUBSCRIBE
The Kid Should See This

The Catasetum orchid’s unusual pollination trick

Watch more with these video collections:

There are plants on the planet that are best-pollinated by one specific insect. This is true for orchids in the genus Catasetum, which requires the Euglossine or orchid bee to help carry pollen between the neotropical Catasetum’s male and female flowering plants.

These orchids have evolved an effective bit of engineering: a trigger that forcefully glues a bundle of pollen, called a pollinium, onto the bees back. The blog In Defense of Plants continues:

“Bees soon learn that the male flowers are rather unpleasant places to visit so they set off in search of a meal that doesn’t pummel them. This is quite possibly why the flowers of the individual sexes look so different from one another. As the bees visit the female flowers, the pollen sacs on their back slip into a perfect groove and thus pollination is achieved.”

Sir David Attenborough demonstrates this unusual pollination mechanism in this NatureBites clip from the natural history documentary series Kingdom of Plants 3D.

the trigger gluing the pollen packet to the bee
bundle of pollen

The second half of the clip shares how Madagascar‘s comet orchid, also ocalled Darwin’s orchid in the in the genus Angraecum, is pollinated by the Morgan’s sphinx moth. The insect’s unusually long proboscis makes it the only pollinator capable of reaching down the comet orchid’s long spur—”27–43 cm (10.6–16.9 in) from its tip to the tip of the flower’s lip”—to reach nectar.

Morgan's sphinx moth
Watch these related pollination videos:
The Tube-Lipped Nectar Bat has a crazy-long tongue
Hawk moths and The Art of Staying Stable
• A bumblebee dislodges pollen in slow-mo
• Why are wasps just as wonderful as bees?
Rafflesia kerrii, the world’s largest, smelliest flower?!

This Webby award-winning video collection exists to help teachers, librarians, and families spark kid wonder and curiosity. TKSST features smarter, more meaningful content than what's usually served up by YouTube's algorithms, and amplifies the creators who make that content.

Curated, kid-friendly, independently-published. Support this mission by becoming a sustaining member today.

🌈 Watch these videos next...

Young David Attenborough records the first-ever audio of an indri lemur

Rion Nakaya

Why do we need biodiversity?

Rion Nakaya

Why are wasps just as wonderful as bees?

Rion Nakaya

Why are museum collections so important? Sir David Attenborough explains

Rion Nakaya

What is a weed? Rethinking these plants with David Attenborough

Rion Nakaya

This giant plant looks like raw meat and smells like dead rat

Rion Nakaya

The Tube-Lipped Nectar Bat has a crazy-long tongue

Rion Nakaya

The Hidden Beauty of Pollination

Rion Nakaya

The Elephant Bird Egg and rare footage of young David Attenborough

Rion Nakaya