Ophyrs insectifera

Oxfordshire Flora Group


Ophrys insectifera, Fly Orchid

Ophrys insectifera, Fly Orchid, Warburg Reserve. Photo by Frances Watkins

Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera is one of four Ophrys species native to Britain. (A single plant of a fifth Ophrys tenthredinifera has been seen in Dorset in the last decade but its origin is unexplained.) Though nowhere common, it is quite widespread in England, and parts of Ireland, but is absent from Scotland, and is confined to Gwynedd and Anglesey in Wales. It has a preference for calcareous substrates; it is shade-tolerant (even in beech woods) but also occurs out in the open. Wherever it is found, however, it abhors plant competition, as indeed do the other Ophrys species. Despite this, it is hard to find.

Oxfordshire sites

In ‘Oxfordshire’s Threatened Plants’ by Erskine et al, Fly Orchid is described as rare in Oxfordshire and VC23, and absent from VC22. The BBOWT Warburg Reserve, near Henley, is the stronghold for the plant in Oxfordshire.

In 2019, a total of 30 plants flowering or in bud were counted at Warburg. Several more were chewed and there were a few plants which only had leaves.

Elsewhere in Oxfordshire, there are records for Fly Orchids at Bottom Wood, Goring Heath, Whitehorse Hill, Bear Oveys, Coldmoor, Greatbottom Woods, Ipsden Heath, Eversdown and Sarsgrove Wood.


Whilst Warburg is the stronghold, Fly Orchids may of course be under recorded elsewhere, because they are not easy to find, whereas Warburg benefits from the regular flow of visitors, many intent on finding orchids. Sometimes sites become unsuitable due to becoming overgrown and providing competition which Fly Orchids cannot deal with.