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The Inspector Duo

Written on Aug 26, '14

Yes, that's a bee hive - and very alive! This was shot from a safe distance, with a 30x camera zoom. They had built on the underside of a municipal water-tank, and the hive appears as a dark lump from below. However, when zoomed-in, it literally becomes a 'bee hive of activity'. A moving, shimmering mass of hundreds of busy insects. This was in a small town at Midnapore, a little more than 100 kms from Kolkata.

The first time I was in that house, where my host had recently moved in, I peered outside the window. The watertank stood on the other side of a medium-sized yard. I didn't notice the hive(s) immediately, at least not until it was specifically pointed out to me a few days later. I'm a veteran of multiple, uber-painful wasp stings, and wasn't looking forward to being stung by irate bees. It was in late spring, and already quite hot in the afternoon. But it was much cooler in the shades. I had kept the windows open for circulation (at present all windows have a fine net on them). I was lying on my back, reading a book. A mild breeze was blowing in occasionally. There was a window at my head.

Unlike in Kolkata, where there's an incessant cacophony, the afternoon was very still. I could hear birds chirping here and there. Occasionally, a bicycle would go past, and I could hear that characteristic crunch of tyre on asphalt - it was that quiet! There was no fan in the room, not yet.

Suddenly, there was this buzzing noise. A largish, honey colored bee with a dark, fuzzy head was circling directly overhead, only about a foot away. It had just flown in, and was closely observing me, perhaps trying to ascertain if I was friend or foe. Certainly it was not used to me, for it was my first day in that house. On the other hand, this was familiar territory to them, and I was a stranger in their habitual world. But I did not feel threatened, for they aren't like the pesky mosquitoes of Kolkata, who'd cruelly attack even the most non-interfering individual. I did not have nectar in my veins (not for the honey bee, at least).

As long as I didn't move suddenly, it had no reason to feel alarmed - or so I hoped. It was moving in starts and stops, following a zig-zag motion, testing me from all angles. Right then it was a few inches above my toes, which I dared not to move. And then it flew out, as suddenly as it had come in.

Within a minute or two, it had returned (or so I thought, I am not an expert in identifying individual bees). But this time it had brought along a friend - a slightly thinner version. Laurel and Hardy of the bee world? Now these two bees were really giving me the look, like some military spy-craft - one right above my nose, and the other down below. All the time, I hadn't even moved a page in the book.

Apparently satisfied with my pacific nature, the investigator duo exited the room. I was almost hoping for them to return, for it was fun looking at their droopy, jointed legs from below. I had never observed bees from that angle, and so close to me. Now that the windows are all netted, the inside of the house has become sterile of all kinds of bugs. I wonder if the bees still miss being inside, although they have that fantastic hive up there in the water-tank. 


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