Friday, July 19, 2013

Wings and stings : the other side of the garden

The monsoon is still in full force in Mumbai; soaking the city, whipping the trees, thrumming a tattoo on car-tops, driving everyone indoors.
But the minute there is a lull, my garden is a-buzz. The passion-flowers are in full bloom and there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of very busy bees hard at work. I don't blame them. The fragrance of the passion-flowers is so sweet and seductive!
I have never tried to locate the hives of these bees to harvest their honey. That belongs to them; they work so hard for it.

All over the world, reports are pouring in of tragic colony collapses. (Why is it so important to us? Important enough for Einstein to state "If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would have only four years left to live"! He was referring to the fact that one-third of our crops depend on honey bees for pollination Take them out of the picture and that's famine you're staring at!
Take a look at this trailer of 'More than honey'. Very interesting! )

Here, in my garden, though, the bees seem to be thriving. And I love watching them going about their work.

I had never really noticed how a bee slurps up nectar! Did you see its tongue? In some of the other pictures I've clicked, the tongue is stuck out long before the bee has landed on the flower ... greedy! (Or just super-efficient?)
And the passionflower is so ingenious. I had never really noticed before how its oval anthers are curved just-so to perfectly fit the curve of a bee. All the better to dust you with pollen, my dear!
And our greedy bee is liberally smothered with this golden dust, little knowing (or caring, I'm sure) that she's a pampered, very well-compensated courier.

hmmm .... I wonder how passionflower-flavoured honey would taste?

If the passionflower is perfectly designed for visiting bees to sit and sip awhile, other blooms like this Safed musli Chlorophytum breviscapumare not so accommodating. But if the medicinal qualities of this very potent plant are going to be infused in the honey ... maybe I should be expecting an explosive growth in the bee population soon!

But, jokes aside, the bees have to be some of the most beneficial and valued creatures in the garden. Even if we gardeners do grouse about unexpected stings once in a while.
Painful, but such a small price to pay for help in the garden!

Wasps are some of my other favourite beneficials in the garden. Except, they won't hand out anything tasty and edible like honey. But they're skilled hunters and they do take care of pests!

Most wasps tuck in a snack for baby to munch on when it hatches. I've seen them scout around plants, locate a bug or caterpillar (sometimes much bigger than itself) and carry it off to its nest to be packed in.
Talk about an efficient tiffin service!

These Paper Wasps can be very aggressive if anyone goes near their nest. Just look at their body language ... they're ready to attack if I move my camera any closer. The things we do for a photo (foolish, foolish me!)!

Okay, I know this is really, really gruesome (believe me, it's a hundred times worse when you actually see it!) but I had to show you. I was walking home the other day when I saw this wasp land on a plant and scout around. It suddenly darted under a leaf and wrestled out this large, plump caterpillar (I think it's a Common Mormon ). Before I could react, it had subdued the poor caterpillar, stripped a long piece of skin and flesh off it, rolled it into a ball and flew off with it!

So shockingly gruesome! I guess if that had been the caterpillar of a Cabbage moth I wouldn't have mourned so much but I've always been partial to the Common Mormons and its cousins.

If this was a movie, it would've never got past the Censors. But then, that's Nature for you. It can be astoundingly beautiful and gentle, as well as mind-numbingly violent and matter-of-fact.
The wasps and other beneficial creatures are yet another weapon in Nature's arsenal to maintain the balance and keep pests under control (no, you don't really need man-made chemicals to do that!) .

And when I talk of wings, I just can't leave the king of my garden out of this post, can I ? Ever since the Pariah Kite (Black Kite) family moved into my garden, I don't need to really bother about keeping the rat population under control. Especially when there's a hungry chick in the nest demanding to be fed around the clock.

Except, every once in a while, I do find their housekeeping throws up some startling discoveries! I found this skeleton of a snake  near the coconut tree on which they nest.
Pity! I quite like snakes, especially when they're so good at getting rid of rats for me.

In my book, any creature that helps me in my garden and cuts down on my work there, is one to be treasured.
Especially if they're as colourful as this Blue Banded Bee.
Even if they come with stings attached.

More links :
         Bee happy


  1. Glad to see your wildlife is doing so well. I have not seen any bees in our garden this year, and it is eery and saddening to say the least.

    1. Yes, it seems to be doing okay so far. Mostly because I leave it alone, I think.
      No bees? That's sad! I hope some will find their way there soon.

  2. Great, sharp close-ups! I've been meaning to shoot that Passiflora flower, but haven't found one yet, It's spectacular.

    1. Thanks, Maria.
      Lucky for me, this passionflower is growing in my garden so I can get it to pose for me any day :)

  3. very interesting! and great pictures

  4. Great visuals Sunita!
    Will come to this one when I have to teach the kids about pollination, beneficial insects and stuff :)

    1. Thank you, Priya. Yes, do bring your kids over to this blog. I know they'll enjoy knowing about all this.

    2. Incidentally, I haven't been able to leave comments on your blog (a mix-up due to an alternate Wordpress account and W not recognising my Blogger blog because of that! :P ) Sorry about that, Priya.

    3. Oh i see.. no problem Sunita :)

      Daughter wanted a news item for tomorrow and i read about the Mumbai rains... and that reminded me of you :) Showed her the pics here and she was oohing and aahing.. esp looking at all the fruits!!

  5. I've just come across your blog for the first time. What stunning pictures! Here in the UK, we're always complaining about the rain; I'm glad you're enjoying it. Quite something to have snake skeletons strewn about. I'll look forward to visiting again to get a flavour of gardening on the other side of the world.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the pics! Yes, I love the rains but I can imagine that it must be quite miserable if you're in colder climates and have to go out and get soaked. So very different from tropical rain!
      Oh yes, do come over soon. I'd love to have a virtual cup of tea with you in my garden :)

    2. So glad you enjoyed the pics! Yes, I love the rains but I can imagine that it must be quite miserable if you're in colder climates and have to go out and get soaked. So very different from tropical rain!
      Oh yes, do come over soon. I'd love to have a virtual cup of tea with you in my garden :)


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