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The Bearded Bandit of Coorg!


Robber Fly, Coorg -


Being mugged is every traveller’s nightmare. Being mugged and then consumed as the main course in a mugger’s banquet, is the stuff that makes it to the horror movie hall of fame. But being killed and converted into a Smoothie to be slurped at leisure, takes the (dis)honours and is certainly not something you’d like on your resume. That, however, is exactly what happens to unwary air-travellers in Coorg if they don’t keep a lookout for the most feared bogeyman of the area – the Robber Fly. This bearded brigand perches quite innocuously on a twig, and when a beetle, dragonfly or wasp is spotted approaching incautiously, smacks his hirsute lips and takes off on a roundabout flight, before veering back suddenly and grabbing the unsuspecting insect, mid-flight, with his powerful legs. A short jab with his rapier-sharp beak injects venomous saliva that paralyses the prey while liquefying the body matter. From there on it’s a smooth return flight to the home perch, where the Robber proceeds to slurp up his Insect Smoothie. If he’s particularly peckish, and feels like a larger serving, the Robber Fly doesn’t balk at taking on prey much bigger than himself, trusting to his well-honed predatory skills and the power of his proboscis. Talking of skill-sets, the predatory career of this successful bandit begins quite early: the larval baby brigand hides in the soil and in decaying wood, and learns the ropes by preying on the larvae, eggs and pupae of other insects around him. While this is bad news for some, a healthy Robber Fly population is good for humans, as it is our first line of defence against destructive and disease-carrying insects. Much like the legend of Robin Hood, the Robber of Coorg has shown that a bandit for some could well be a saviour for others.


Photograph: Samyak Kaninde Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy

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