At the beginning of Monsoon, as the sun played hide and seek with the clouds, I strolled into my garden, looking for my feathered friends. Everything seemed quiet and dull, even the wind had ceased to whisper. Birds were neither to be seen nor heard; perhaps they had gone foraging elsewhere, taking all the action with them.
As soon as I stopped looking for birds, my eyes started seeing the action in the Lilliputian world, which was taking place all around me. Coral Berry shrubs (Botanical Name: Rivina Humilis), the so called ‘weeds’ had created a lush undergrowth beneath the trees. Many of these were still flowering but few already had blood red berries in them. Weaver Ants (Scientific Name: Oecophylla Smaragdina) were running about these shrubs and as soon as one of them spotted a ripe berry, others seemed to instantly know what they need to do. After rushing to the spot, two or three ants would hang on to a single berry and pull with all their might. Once the berry was plucked, these ants would execute a carefully orchestrated teamwork, trekking uphill over the Mango tree branches, carrying their hard-earned goodies, towards their palace that was woven with leaves and was hidden somewhere on the upper branches.
Meanwhile, few others got busy in puncturing and sucking the juice out of some of the select berries. Once they were done with converting them into light weight dry fruits, they would single handedly carry them uphill and in some cases effortlessly overtook the other team members who were carrying the heavier juicy berries! All this hard work was not without risks, as I could see from the dried up body of an ant stuck in the spider web on one of the berry clusters.
Their intricate work was fascinating to watch. Why did they employ different techniques? Was it simply a matter of personal choice or did the Queen instruct them specifically on the number of ripe and dry berries she needs? I don’t know the answer to these questions. However, what we know for sure is that they are excellent pest control systems and have been used for this purpose historically. This rings true in my family’s experience too; trees where Weaver Ants’ nests are present generally yield better fruits, free of insect infestation.
When I moved away from the shade of trees, I came across these beautiful wild flowers known as Prostrate Globe Amaranth (Botanical Name: Gomphrena Serrata). While focusing my camera on one them, I noticed the bustle of Harvester Ants (Scientific Name: Messor Instabilis) a little distance away. Their genus ‘Messor’ is named after the Roman God of crops and harvest. True to their name, they were busy in shredding one of these flowers and carrying off this ‘harvest’ to their nest. These ants play a significant role in ecology by helping in seed dispersal; at the same time being benefited from the nutrition of their ‘harvest’. This is just another example of ‘give and take’ interaction with Nature, which most species other than the modern day Homo sapiens seem to display!
Once again my eyes flew towards the bird bath to see if any birds have arrived, but instead I saw Giant Honey Bees (Scientific Name: Apis Dorsata; Other Names: Rock Bee) buzzing about the water. Prompted by my desire to do close up photography of these interesting creatures, I moved closer and sat just a foot away from them. These are said to be the aggressive and territorial bees, however they didn’t seem to mind my presence in the least and continued to collect water. They use water to cool their hive in hot weather and also the bees who feed the developing larvae need water. As the temperature was not very hot, I wondered whether they have got many new arrivals in their hive. I looked up at the skies and wished fervently for a good Monsoon; even these bees were in need of water!
As I rambled on, I was attracted by the fragrance of Sandalwood flowers. Yes! Even the flowers of this tree are fragrant; such is the creation of Nature! On a closer look, I could see other denizens who were already attracted to these flowers. The Dwarf Honey Bees (Scientific Name: Apis Florea; Other Names: Little Bee) were busy collecting nectar from these tiny flowers. They were timid compared to the Giant Honey Bees and when they realized that I had no intention to keep my distance, they moved on to flower clusters on higher branches, away from me!
Bright yellow Rain Lilies were also in bloom. On approaching these flowers, I could see a lot of little flies. They were actually tiny stingless bees known as Damner Bees (Scientific Name: Trigona Iridepennis). Most of them foraged the Lilies in a group of ten to twelve and few of them by themselves. I’m not sure whether this was a random occurrence or they had their own preferences.
Honey bees are proficient pollinators right from the time of super continent Gondwana. Ants too have roamed the earth along with Dinosaurs and have always done their bit for the environment starting with enriching the soil, which indirectly supports higher biodiversity. Probably without them, our planet wouldn’t be what it is today.
The more I watched, the more interesting the Lilliputian world became for me. I noticed a spider (Neoscona genus) that was comfortably settled in the Lily flower. Was he hiding from predators in the relative safety of the Lily or was he the predator himself, waiting to ambush the next unsuspecting visitor? He was quiet as a saint under my watch, as though reluctant to part with his well-guarded secret.
My backyard had turned out to be a veritable treasure trove of fascinating creatures, all with their own stories to be told! I knew then that nothing is ever dull in Nature. My train of thoughts was greeted by water drops; first few drops of long awaited Monsoon! Ants scuttled back faster with their hard earned goodies; Bees buzzed away with their carefully collected nectar; I ran home with my camera and a big grin for having glimpsed few of the amazing actions in this wonderful world.
Visit the author’s website, Cheer Nature