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Animal of the year is a bee

Fooled again! The long-horned bee gets up close to an orchid.

(Pro Natura/Nicolas J. Vereecken)

One of Switzerland’s 580 species of wild bee has been chosen as Pro Natura’s animal of the year, the nature protection organisation announced on Tuesday.

Eucera nigrescens, whose German name translates as long-horned bee, is described by Pro Natura as a “furry pollen taxi”. It plays a vital role in pollinating the Ophrys holosericea orchid.

The orchid, named in German after the bumble bee, fools the insect by imitating the shape and smell of the female. The male bee comes along to mate, and receives a load of pollen instead, which it passes on to the next plant it visits.

Pro Natura said the choice of the long-horned bee with its highly specialised relationship with the orchid was designed to illustrate the importance of millions of insects for biodiversity.

It said 45 per cent of all wild bees are on the red list of endangered species in Switzerland. If they were to disappear, many plant species would disappear too.

The United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. Pro Natura has launched its own campaign under the slogan: Biodiversity – every species counts! and agencies

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