Rare Bee Orchid appears at Courteenhall

28th Jun 2024

 A single rare Bee Orchid is flowering in the parkland at historic Courteenhall Estate in South Northamptonshire.

The Bee Orchid was spotted by Head Groundsman Darron Wilks while he was walking through the grounds.

The orchid (Ophrys Apifera) famously resembles a female bee with pink sepals that look like wings and furry brown lips with yellow markings on, just like a bee. It confuses male bees who try to mate with it, instead pollinating the flower.

In a number of countries it is a protected species, and they are unusual in that some years they appear in great numbers, and other times they only reappear after an absence of years.

In 2009, the bee orchid appeared in a series of British stamps to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species.

Last year, Darron found our first known Pyramidal Orchid in the parkland which has reappeared this year.


Dr Johnny Wake, Managing Partner of Courteenhall Farms, said: “Since we changed the management of our parkland and introduced a more regenerative agriculture approach, we have seen an increase in the number of orchids.

“Two years ago, we introduced a herd of native rare breed Traditional Hereford cattle to our parkland, and we allow the grass to grow long for them to feed on and keep them out all year, ensuring that the benefits of their dung do not disappear over crucial months.

“Not only are we seeing a greater variety of bird and insect life, but the types of orchids are increasing too.

“It is incredibly exciting to have a Bee Orchid growing here as they’re one of the most famous orchids.

“We’re not sure if it has previously grown here or if it has blown to Courteenhall and just loves the conditions we have created. Either way, we believe it’s a sign that what we’re doing to regenerate the land is working.

“We have been astounded with the number of orchids we’re seeing this year. We have had a few Heath-Spotted Orchids for a few years, but this summer they are off the scale.”

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