Orchid bees are not social like honey bees. They are solitary, only meeting another bee to mate. They communicate through scent, but produce no scents of their own. So how does an orchid bee manage to contact a potential mate or establish its territory if it can’t produce pheromones of its own?
Short answer? It makes some on its own from whatever it can find! Orchid bees grab chemicals from various sources, combine them into a pleasing aroma, and disperse it to attract a mate. While there are several sources the bees go to for these chemicals, the most famous are orchids (which, hey, that could be where orchid bees get their name!). Orchids, clever little things they are, have evolved a number of ways to take advantage of the bees. The most complex is perhaps the bucket orchid (Coryanthes), detailed in this game.
This game is designed to teach ecology through play. The game does not assume the player knows anything about orchid bees or their environment. Instead, the player is given a place to explore and, through experimentation, they figure out what an orchid bee does. If the player wants to advance, they will be forced to attempt things that appear dangerous to the bee, only to discover they are in fact harmless. Likewise, the player will discover that what appears harmless may actually come at a price.
I was interested in creating a game where the player gets outsmarted by a plant. I’d done a game where the player controls a plant designed to get the player thinking about plants and agency. While plants are not “thinking” the same way animals do, they are indeed making choices and decisions based on their experiences and environment. No bucket orchid ever thought “hey I am going to evolve this particular trap to extort pollination from these bees! That’ll show ’em!” but they are using the tools they have deliberately when they sense a bee near or inside them. Plants are an active, not mere reactive, part of the environment, and when you stop thinking of them as simple, static window dressing they can be quite fascinating.
If you enjoy this game or want to see more ecology-themed games, consider contributing to my Patreon.
If you want to play a game and contribute more directly to conservation and ecological activism, I have also recently released Eft to Newt, and all sales of this game go toward saving the critically endangered axolotl salamander.