This fragrance is the bee’s knees – literally!

Scientists have discovered that certain types of bees actually create their own ‘perfumes’ in order to attract a mate. And what’s more, a niche brand has just launched a Bee fragrance that’s already creating a buzz…

A new article in Science Daily reveals that scientists at the University of California have discovered male orchid bees don’t sipmply flit among the flowers collecting pollen to make honey back at the hive – they’re also using their wings ‘…to disperse a bouquet of perfumes into the air.’ And their studies have concluded that ‘the aromatic efforts are all for the sake of attracting a mate.’

Associate Professor Santiago Ramirez, UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, explained that while they already knew many animals produce pheremones, the unique factor for the orchid bee is that ‘the majority of their pheromones are actually collected from plants and other sources like fungi.’ Science Daily suggests that ‘Orchid bees are master perfumers,’ and goes on to explain that the scientists reserach suggests that ‘the perfumes males concoct are unique to their specific species’.

Ramirez,and recent Ph.D. graduate student Philipp Brand, from the Population Biology Graduate Group, have been studying the mating habits of orchid bees for some years, in the course of their studies, ‘unraveling the complex chemicals responsible for successful procreation.’ What they didn’t expext to find, though, was a brand new discovery that possibly explains the evolutionary divergence of bee species: environmental perfumes (and we’re not talking ‘clean’ or ‘green’ beauty claims here, folks!)

In the study, which was first published in Nature Communications, Brand, Ramirez and their colleagues set out their case to suggest that the evolution of sexual signaling in orchid bees can directly be linked to ‘a gene that’s been shaped by each species’ perfume preferences.’

Brand commented that, ‘Our study supports the hypothesis that in the orchid bee perfume communication system, the male perfume chemistry and the female preference for the perfume chemistry can simultaneously evolve via changes in a single receptor gene.’ And this could explain why a single species split into two distinct species that we knew were linked, but had no idea why they had diverged. Ah yes, the power of that scent sillage is strong, it seems, even for bees. But how did one bee’s perfume-making prowess suddenly woo more of the female bees to his partiular, er, honeypot?

 

Green Orchid Bee

 

Explains Ramirez: ‘Imagine you have an ancestral species that uses certain compounds to communicate with each other,” said Ramirez. “If you have a chemical communication channel and then that chemical communication channel splits into two separate channels, then you have the opportunity for the formation of two separate species.’

Do make time to read the full article in Science Daily – it’s a fascingating read, and yet another notch in our understanding of the power of smell. But let’s not only focus on fragrances that makes bees feel like getting busy (buzzy?) with it; we perfume-loving humans have a brand new sweet-smelling scent to explore that’s perfectly themed – and although not inspired by the reasearch, as far as we know, happens to be perfectly timed, too. The Canadian-based niche house of Zoologist have just launched the latest in their animal-centric scents: behold Bee

Perfumer Cristiano Canali has created a perfume that showcases luxurious amounts of labdanum, dollops of honey, a leathery orange blossom dusted with powdery mimosa, delciously rounded by nutty tonka and heady heliotrope.

Zoologist Bee, £195 for 65ml extrait de parfum (1ml samples £3)
Try it at Bloom Perfumery

So which honey-based fragrances are likely to get you buzzing? Read our page all about the history and use of honey as a fragrant ingredient, and discover other perfumes to try, for the scent perfumer Christine Nagel describes as ‘half devil, half angel…’

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Mitchell and Peach – outstanding in their field(s) of lavender. We loved them so much, we invited you, too!

For five generations, the incredibly photogenic Mitchells have been farming the same land deep in the heart of Kent – The ‘Garden of England’ – and cultivating everything from apples, strawberries, cobnuts, honey and chamomile. But it’s the lavender they’re perhaps most famous for – a swathe of purple shocking commuters into delighted squeals who glimpse it from their packed train carriages (ourselves included!) and gaze longingly as it hurries past…
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Imagine how thrilled we were, then, to receive an invitation to a press day at Mitchell and Peach. We immediately envisaged ourselves wafting through the fields wearing white summer dresses and straw hats, perhaps carrying a wooden trug brimming with the fragrant blooms – like a 1970s shampoo advert bathed in sunshine. Of course it rained (of course!) cometh the day, but it was absolutely impossible not to feel ridiculously happy surrounded by such beauty (seriously, even their barns are beautiful) – and by people who clearly cared so much about their crops and the gorgeously scented products they now make with them.
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From 1923 to 1972, the Mitchells ran a thriving market stand on the south-west corner of old Covent Garden in London. Having celebrated 100 years at Foxbury Farm, it still remains the centre of their estate to this day, and continuing in the family’s tradition while diversifying their offerings, Ian and Jod Mitchell (see main picture) planted fine lavender on the estate.
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Such great quality were the essences distilled from this plantation, they were inspired to create a bath and body range, planted more lavender to keep up with demand and trial crops including chamomile – so wonderfully soothing and far more fragrant than you’d imagine when the petals are crushed beneath your fingers – and beehives for their fragrantly delicious honey. Here’s “Brett the Bee Man” (below) who guided us around the hives and so proudly explained his work…
Brett the Bee man at Mitchell and Peach
 
Far from the slightly fusty image some may have of a family business in such idyllic surroundings engaged in creating fragrances, skin-care and scented grooming products, this is no kitchen-table job. The perfumes are exquisite and so reminisent of their surroundings, yet totally contemporary and wearable by all. The streamlined, stylish packaging also enhances their no-nonsense ethos, and we left seriously impressed by everything we’d seen and smelled (and tasted – we highly recommend lavender as a swizzle stick!)
M&P drink
In fact, so impressed, we knew we just had to invite our VIP Subscribers along to share the treat with us – and what a treat it proved to be. Even the sun shone for our return visit…
13‘A sophisticated floral structured around rose, ylang ylang, peony and lavender, emboldened with larkspur and sweet fennel. This outstanding perfume is hand-blended in England with pure essential oils from the Mitchell estate. The result is a distinctive fine fragrance with a singular depth, warmth and elegance.’
Mitchell and Peach Fora No.1 £75 for 50ml eau de parfum
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‘A bright “green floral” inspired by the lush countryside of Foxbury Farm, the home of Mitchell and Peach. This unique scent is hand blended with natural extracts including soft citrus, coriander leaves, basil, mint and floral oils from the Mitchell Estate. It possesses an uplifting, aromatic freshness redolent of ‘mown meadows’, with a hint of musky cedar wood to lend complexity and depth.’
Mitchell and Peach English Leaf £55 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy them at Mitchell and Peach
Written by Suzy Nightingale