Ever since I undertook the Pollinator Project, I've run into various nature enthusiasts, mostly because of like-minded sensibilities, but sometimes purely by chance.
I was referred to a gentleman named Mahadevan by the folks at Under the Mango Tree. Mahadevan, or "Maha" as he seems to prefer, is a beekeeper and although he's an IT consultant by profession, he's equally passionate about pollinators.
Maha, in turn, connected me with the Director of Maharashtra Nature Park -a gentleman named Mr. Avinash Kubal- and I visited their trails and grounds a couple of days ago.
Mr. Kubal was generous enough to allow me access to some areas of the park which are off-limits to other visitors. He also introduced me to another passionate man named Pradip Patade, who patiently showed me around all the trails while braving a nasty cough.
Pradip has been working on a project that involves documenting marine life of Mumbai's coasts, and I was blown away by his photos. I'll share a link to his work soon.
While walking around, I was very pleased to finally encounter Apis dorsata, aka the giant honeybee or the rock bee, on the park grounds. They're all over this park, making me regret that I haven't visited earlier.
(In my defense, the monsoon season over the last couple of months has really prevented me from going anywhere in search of bees)
The rock bee is the largest of all honeybee species, easily distinguished from its cousins by its long, tapering abdomen. And of course, its size.
They're also the only honeybees that cannot be tamed. While they're relatively docile when foraging, they're purpotedly easily provoked if you approach their hives, unlike the European honeybee or the Indian species. They're not too bothered by humans chasing them around water lily ponds, though.
Some walks down the trail got me these gems:
However, the park is also abundant with these beauties:
Ceratina sp., the small carpenter bee. At 6-8 mm, they're easily missed, or mistaken for flies. While they're tiny in comparison to their Xylocopa cousins (which get pretty big), they're closely related. Just like Xylocopa, genus Ceratina also burrow into soft woods to make nests. Interestingly, several species are social bees.
I'd initially mistaken these beauties for sweat bees, but stumbled across the Wikipedia article while trying to identify them.
All in all, the trip down to the park was quite satisfying.
I'll be making several more trips to this wonderful little nature reserve, but I wanted to put up a quick blog post about it.