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BBC Films Orchid Bees at the Vallarta Botanical Garden

May 8, 2017

Stanhopea radiosa and Euglossine bee in the Vallarta Botanical Garden (Photo: Kevin Flay, BBC)

Cabo Corrientes, Jalisco, Mexico - Catching the attention of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the largest broadcaster in the world, requires something extraordinary. Their widely acclaimed natural history documentaries are especially known for showcasing some of the most spectacular and unusual wildlife.

In the case of the Vallarta Botanical Garden (VBG), it's not a giant jaguar or a majestic macaw that's grabbed their interest, but rather something quite small and delicate - a tribe of iridescent green and metallic blue native bees that are the exclusive pollinators of some phenomenally exquisite orchids with ingenious mechanisms of pollen transfer.

The bees are not attracted by nectar, of which the orchids make none, but rather visit to compete for glorious fragrances to attract their mates. Competitions often ensue with riveting high-speed spectacles of aerial fights.


The brushes on an orchid bee’s feet, captured with a macro lens.
Last summer, the BBC sent a team including a producer, researchers, and a camera crew to catch footage of this unique interaction for their documentary series, "México."

Victoria Bromley, the BBC producer of Mountain Worlds, recently wrote about the experience:

"For the 'Mountains' episode we wanted to tell stories on a grand and small scale that would demonstrate the remarkable diversity of Mexico's mountain ranges," she began.

She went on to tell the story of how they started out in the Sierra Gorda, an ecological region centered on the northern third of the state of Querétaro and extending into the neighboring states of Guanajuato, Hidalgo and San Luis Potosí.

"One of our locations, Sierra Gorda, offered us a wealth of potential wildlife stories, so we relied on photographer and conservationist, Roberto Pedraza, as our guide. His family began the NGO Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, to protect this unique region and he spends his days roaming its vast patchwork of habitats. His photographs, taken over several years, revealed that Sierra Gorda really is a secret garden for orchids. There are over 1,200 species of orchid in Mexico, with many only found at high altitudes, so this seemed like an important element of Mexico's mountain story.

Then I read about the amazing, mutualistic relationship orchids have with the orchid bee. When I saw images of these stunning animals, in their shining green armour, I really wanted to feature them in the programme. Roberto sent me a photograph of these same bees on a Stanhopea orchid in the garden of his house in Sierra Gorda and the pieces began to fall into place," she wrote.

Unfortunately, Stanhopea orchids bloom for just a few days each year, and the flowers have to be in bloom to attract the bees, so the chances of finding and filming the interaction in the vast forests of the Sierra Gorda was next to impossible. So they turned to the expert team at Vallarta Botanical Gardens to increase their chances.

To learn more about how the camera crew captured this natural phenomenon - something that had never been filmed before - at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, read the full article on BBC.com.


Visit the internationally famous Vallarta Botanical Garden located just 30 minutes south of Old Town at Km. 24 on Highway 200 and easily accessible by public transportation and taxi. This 60 acre wildlife preserve and botanical garden have something fun for everyone. Over 200 species of birds have been observed on the Garden's grounds. Don't forget to bring your swimsuit for a refreshing dip in the jungle river. See plantings of vanilla, chocolate, and hundreds of other botanical delights! Authentic Mexican Cuisine is served in the Hacienda de Oro Restaurant from 10 am to 5 pm. The Garden is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm (closed Mondays from April 1 to December 1). Don't miss the Puerto Vallarta Butterfly Festival August 15 through October 30. Garden admission is just $150 pesos. For more information, call (322) 223-6182 or visit vbgardens.org.

Click HERE to learn more about the Vallarta Botanical Garden.