Catfished: Fake sex pheromones deceive male wasps


Scientists have discovered the chemical breakdown of fake sex pheromones used by spider orchids to seduce male wasp pollinators, writes Sarah Condie


Male wasps can hardly resist the convincing pheromones released by spider orchids
Oxford Scientific/Getty

Pollination is key to the survival of plants. But how do they do it? Scientists at the University of Western Australia have discovered the chemical breakdown of sex pheromones used by spider orchids to seduce male wasp pollinators.

This particular species of spider orchid, Caladenia, is known to mimic the sex pheromones of female wasps to lure males with the false promise of sex. The specific chemicals involved in this complex process of sexual deception have, until now, remained elusive.

Researchers have uncovered that it is a unique system of Sulphur containing chemicals that is simply irresistible to male wasps. Incredible footage even shows a male wasp abandon its partner for the extreme sexual attractiveness of a spider orchid.

As one of the first successful studies pinpointing the communication between a flower and its pollinator, this discovery holds much promise for the world of pollination chemistry. Bad news for the male wasps however, as they continue to be deceived by the ever-alluring and intelligent spider orchid.


Sarah Condie is a freelance writer based in Melbourne.
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