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Flying Jewels Of The Rainforest

Updated on January 31, 2015

Beautiful Blue and Gorgeous Green Orchid Bees

Orchid Bees are incredible colorful creatures. They look like shimmering jewels flying through the rainforests and cloud forests of Central and South America. The different species of Orchid Bees show many bright metallic colors - deep blue, bottle green or gold -as you will see in the stunning photos here. Bees and bugs also inspire beautiful bee jewelry and insect jewelry.

I first encountered the exotic Orchid Bees, otherwise known as Euglossine bees, at the Smithsonian Institute Research Centre on the island of Barra Colorado, in Panama. Barra Colorado was once a hill-top covered in rainforest. When the Panama Canal was built, the valleys in the area were flooded, and now, surrounded by the waters of the Panama Canal, it is home to many rainforest species of plants and animals.

About 200 different species of Orchid Bees have been identified so far. One species, Euglossa viridissima, has moved north to establish itself in the United States, but the others are exclusively found in South and Central America.

This photo was taken in 2004 by Jacob Rus and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

What Are Orchid Bees?

The Orchid bees or Euglossine bees are mostly solitary species, though a few are communal, and some are eusocial. In eusocial species, there is social organisation and a division of labour, so different individuals have different tasks to do.

Generally, females collect pollen and nectar as food. These also collect resins, mud and other materials to build their nests. Males use some of the same food plants are also used by the males.

Male orchid bees collect volatile chemical compounds from orchids, pollinating these plants at the same time. euglossine males. The chemicals are transferred into sponge-like cavities inside the hind legs.

Males display at special sites in the forest, releasing the 'fragrances' they have collected. This is believed to attract females for mating.

As the males are such avid scent collectors, some synthetic compounds can be used as bait to attract and collect them for study. These include methyl salicylate, eugenol and methyl cinnamate (pleasant smelling to humans) skatole (foul-smelling).

Orchid Bee Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
An orchid bee, Euglossa viridissima sleeping on a leaf. Miramar Florida, by Eframgoldberg, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0Euglossa-viridissima, by the USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory, licensed under CC BY 2.0Euglossa cyanura male, by Ismael A. Hinojosa-D� & Michael S. Engel, licensed under CC BY 3.0Euglossa analis male. The copyright holder of this file, Laurence Packer, allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed. Redistribution, derivative work, commercial use, and all other use is permitEuglossa obrima male, a new species of orchid bee from Mesoamerica, by Ismael A. Hinojosa-D�az, Gabriel A.R. Melo, Michael S. Engel, licensed under CC BY 3.0
An orchid bee, Euglossa viridissima sleeping on a leaf. Miramar Florida, by Eframgoldberg, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
An orchid bee, Euglossa viridissima sleeping on a leaf. Miramar Florida, by Eframgoldberg, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
Euglossa-viridissima, by the USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory, licensed under CC BY 2.0
Euglossa-viridissima, by the USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory, licensed under CC BY 2.0
Euglossa cyanura male, by Ismael A. Hinojosa-D� & Michael S. Engel, licensed under CC BY 3.0
Euglossa cyanura male, by Ismael A. Hinojosa-D� & Michael S. Engel, licensed under CC BY 3.0
Euglossa analis male. The copyright holder of this file, Laurence Packer, allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed. Redistribution, derivative work, commercial use, and all other use is permit
Euglossa analis male. The copyright holder of this file, Laurence Packer, allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed. Redistribution, derivative work, commercial use, and all other use is permit
Euglossa obrima male, a new species of orchid bee from Mesoamerica, by Ismael A. Hinojosa-D�az, Gabriel A.R. Melo, Michael S. Engel, licensed under CC BY 3.0
Euglossa obrima male, a new species of orchid bee from Mesoamerica, by Ismael A. Hinojosa-D�az, Gabriel A.R. Melo, Michael S. Engel, licensed under CC BY 3.0

Buzzin' Bee Jewelry

I'm guessing that you've read this far because you like bees and bugs..? In that case, you may like (or know someone who likes) bug and bee jewelry. There is much to choose from, but here are a few of my favorites.

Sterling Silver Diamond Enamel Bumble Bee Pendant Necklace (1/10 cttw), 18"
Sterling Silver Diamond Enamel Bumble Bee Pendant Necklace (1/10 cttw), 18"

Beautiful bumblebee pendant, in sterling silver, with black and tan enamel decoration. Diamond accents add a little shine to the body and wings. 18-inch sterling silver cable chain.

 
Yellow Topaz Austrian Crystal Rhinestone Bumble Bee Brooch Pin with 18K Gold Plated
Yellow Topaz Austrian Crystal Rhinestone Bumble Bee Brooch Pin with 18K Gold Plated

Gold Plated bee brooch, decorated with Austrian rhinestone, and measuring approximately 3 centimetres in length and width.

 

Panama Canal

And Barra Colorado Island

The Smithsonian Institute Research station on Barra Colorado Island is uniquely placed to study the rainforest and the animals that live their.

Barra Colorado was formed when the Panama Canal was created. It is, in fact, the top of a hill, surrounded by flooded valleys.

During my three weeks at Barra Colorado, I had numerous encounters with exotic creatures. One of the most amazing things I saw was a huge spider creche. Many webs had been woven more-or-less into one huge web, several feet across. In this giant web, there were hundreds, or perhaps thousands of spiders. Most spiders live alone and, in fact, are aggressive towards other spiders. Social spiders like these, however, live in groups or colonies.

Alilang Silvery Tone Grey Colored Rhinestones Creepy Halloween Spider Brooch Pin
Alilang Silvery Tone Grey Colored Rhinestones Creepy Halloween Spider Brooch Pin

Not an insect, but still a "creepy-crawlie", perfect for someone who wants an unusual belly pin!

 

Jewelry for Insect lovers

Whether you like ladybug, butterflies or more unusual critters, there are beautiful necklaces, pendants, bracelets, earrings and more to charm you.

Alilang Antique Golden Tone Orange Vintage Insect Fly Beetle Bug Chain Pendant Necklace
Alilang Antique Golden Tone Orange Vintage Insect Fly Beetle Bug Chain Pendant Necklace

For true bug lovers, this a stunning, realistic and interesting piece. The pendant measures 2.5" and is painted with a semi-translucent red-brown enamel paint.

 

Bees for Kids

Even young children can identify bees - although they might be a little surprised by the beautiful Orchid bees, just as I was.

Have you travelled to any distant lands? - Or seen unusual plants or animals?

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    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 3 years ago

      What an interesting lens.

    • savateuse profile image
      Author

      savateuse 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for your kind comments. I was amazed by the orchid bees, and their stunning colours!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I was just thinking that the saying "busy as bees sure does fit", and your orchid bees are so different from any I've ever seen....beautiful, fascinating and unique. Your videos and pictures are great and was particularly interested in watching that scrubbing routine of the males. Its so interesting that these guys are both solitary and live in social groups, guess they must have individual personalities like we do. Very nicely presented and congratulations on being featured by the Editor for a Day! :)

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      These bees are in all my favorite colors -- the blue greens. They are beautiful.

    • savateuse profile image
      Author

      savateuse 4 years ago

      @chattersharon: they certainly are!

    • profile image

      chattersharon 4 years ago

      I never thought I would say this.. but what a pretty bee!

    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 4 years ago

      I have never been to the tropics. Bees are such an essential part of the ecosystem. This species is beautiful.

    • savateuse profile image
      Author

      savateuse 4 years ago

      @CoffeeWriter LM: Thanks for visiting!

    • CoffeeWriter LM profile image

      CoffeeWriter LM 4 years ago

      Love the close-up pictures. They're really nice.

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 4 years ago

      These are fascinating creatures. Thanks for sharing, since I won't be traveling there anytime soon.

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      I have never seen orchid bees before. They are lovely! :)

    • savateuse profile image
      Author

      savateuse 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for visiting! And for your feedback :)

    • profile image

      eramquodeserisquodsum 5 years ago

      The orchid bee is invasive but not harmful where I live in South Florida. They love firebushes. Thanks for using my photograph can my name be fixed?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I love it when I learn something new while surfing on Squidoo. Thanks for making my day.

    • savateuse profile image
      Author

      savateuse 5 years ago

      @eramquodeserisquodsum: yes, sure, contact me with the correct name and I'll change it

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 5 years ago

      I've traveled to distant lands, but never seen any bees like this. They kind of make our honeybees seem "ho-hum" in comparison.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 5 years ago

      oooooooh! that bee is gorgeous!

    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 5 years ago

      I've traveled a lot but never seen anything quite so remarkable as those bees- they are beautiful!

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

      Orchid bees are astonishing! Thanks for lovely video material.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 5 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      17 countries. lots of species, lol.

    • savateuse profile image
      Author

      savateuse 5 years ago

      @LisaMarieGabriel: Thanks for the blessing and the encouragement to do more!

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Keep going with your insect lenses - I personally know it is an area in which you have serious expertise and I hope that gets recognised! Blessed and tweeted far and wide!

    • savateuse profile image
      Author

      savateuse 5 years ago

      @naturegirl7s: Thanks for your encouragement and blessing. Much appreciated!

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 5 years ago from Covington, LA

      What an amazing and beautiful bee. I saw these on the video, The Beauty of Pollination, but was not familiar with them. The first video was very instructional and I enjoyed it and this lens very much. I would love to travel to South American rain forests, but for now a virtual trip will have to do. ***Blessed***