Glass, metal, cloth, scents, 5” x 9” x 6 ½, 2015
Hand blown bottle containing a reproduction of the perfume male orchid bees display to attract a mate.
Male Euglossini, found in South and Central America, spend much of their time collecting scent compounds from organic materials, especially orchids, and from human products such as shampoo and agricultural chemicals. They collect these scents over lifetimes and miles, traveling extreme distances to find just the right component for their unique perfume blends they use to attract a mate.
Besides collecting compounds that humans consider attractive, such as vanilla, mint, and eucalyptus, the bees collect scents that humans consider offensive, such as compounds from feces, and the insecticide DDT. These are used for the perfume’s undertones, much as we might use musk and other compounds to add deeper notes to our perfumes and colognes. As each orchid species has a single, species-specific pollinator, these displaced compounds suggest profound consequences for over 200 described species of orchids and bees, as well as yet to be described species.