The flowers of Bee orchids pretend to look like female bees to attract male bees. When males try to mate, they pollinate the flower. Unfortunately, there are no matching bee species in the UK, and Bee orchids self-pollinate here.
Fascinating they are, the Bee orchids are not very showy, and one might pass pretty close without noticing them. They occur in grasslands and tend to flower after some disturbance of the ground (e.g. trampling) in the previous year. To see them in flower, look around the lake area in June.
Surprisingly, the best time to survey Bee orchids is in winter. Because they typically occur in lawns, they get cut as soon as the mowing season starts. But in winter, they are easily spotted by their leaf rosettes.
Bee orchid is an iconic flower – for example, it is a county flower of our neighbour Bedfordshire. In 1995, during refurbishment work at Bayfordbury, demolishing work on a greenhouse was briefly halted to allow a bee orchid to flower in peace. This was documented in a University of Hertfordshire newsletter ‘Horizon’ under the title “Bulldozers give way to bee orchids”. Thanks to David Cambell (Astronomy) for finding this reference.