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Sting Operation!

Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Kabini -

There’s nothing undercover about this sting operation. It’s all above board, very public, and cruelly exposes the pretentions of dangerous denizens like Messrs. Bee, Wasp & Hornet, and the limitations of their supposedly invincible weaponry. The main theatre of operation is the lush expanse of Kabini, where the Blue-tailed Bee-eaters are the designated super sleuths of the jungle, and have the license to hunt down stinging intruders, without bothering to take prisoners. Of course the very name of our avian heroes is a giveaway about their appetite for meals with a little more ‘bite’ than normal. These bejeweled Page 3 celebs of the jungle journals are highly social birds and can be found strutting their stuff on high, exposed branches, discussing the previous night’s spread, whilst keeping a beady eye out for winged visitors who can be added to the day’s menu. Woe betide a passing Bee or Wasp who depends on her sting to keep out of harm’s way. Nemesis comes hurtling down from above, in a dazzling flash of green and blue, and before one can blink, a long, rapier sharp beak takes hold, and with an audible snap, the insect is consigned to history. The powerful beak squeezes the venom out, and for good measure, the stinger is vigorously thrashed against the perch to get rid of the sting. The main course, having been subdued and beaten up, is consumed with a generous side order of less dangerous Dragonflies and Grasshoppers, and then, it’s off again to the nearest rooftop party, while we lesser mortals applaud the show and hurry back to tell our children the Kabini version of the story of the birds and the bees.

Photograph: Jayanth Sharma Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy



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