Summer Buzz

It was an accidental serendipity that brought this Veldt Grape (Perandai, Cissus quadrangularis) plant here. A small piece of the stem, took root and grew. Slowly at first, and then after a year, it took off. Irrigated with tap water, which was quite salty, high in TDS (Total Dissolved Solids ), it managed to do well. Spring this year, it sent out lots of green shoots. When summer came, it started flowering. Tiny pink buds, that opened to reveal four stamens.



Flowers and nectar brought in the bees, butterflies, and wasps. Reminds one of lazy summer afternoons, under the shade of a tree, with the buzz of the bees. The pirandai plant, with abundant flowers and nectar, is not enough to attract the pollinators, especially in a city suburb. A variety of weeds are required to support insect populations. Fortunately, the cleanerers in all their rage, could only do so much. There were lots of weeds around.
Insects requires weeds, the usual kind, for nectar, and leaves for the caterpillars. Tulsi (basil), siriyanangai ( [சிறியா நங்கை]/ Nila Vembu [நிலவேம்பு] Andographis paniculata), kanakambaram (கனகாம்பரம், firecracker flower, Crossandra infundibuliformis), thumbai (Leucas aspera), tridax, oxalis and many others.
On this Tulsi plant (this photo was taken a month earlier), a green spider is feeding on a grasshopper. Tulsi with plentiful flowers, is a good source of nectar. The plant is highly medicinal. A few leaves once in a while, and one need not worry so much about mosquito related illnesses.


Green spider and grasshopper

Another plant that is useful in dengue, and chickungunya is siriyanangai or nila vembu. Tamil Nadu government fortunately had people use a Siddha remedy for mosquito borne illnesses, both as a preventative measure, and as a cure. The medicine is called Nilavembu kudineer. This increases immunity, and is effective for several mosquito borne illnesses. A combination of several herbs like these, can free you from fear of mosquitoes, or water puddles, or organized hysteria against mosquitoes.


Siriyanangai Andographis paniculata

Siriyanangai like most weeds, flowers profusely. My daughter used to take the dry seeds, and drop them in water. They make a popping sound, and burst open, spreading the tiny seeds. She was illustrating the cycles of life. Rain after a hot summer, would have done the same thing, making the seed pods go pop. The leaves of the plant are extremely bitter. That makes it effective against snake and scorpion poisons. Yet the nectar is sweet, and attractive to bees. This striped fat bee, makes a loud buzz, as it flits around from flower to flower.


Fat striped bee


Fat striped bee

Another one, slightly bigger, is bright, shiny blue, and has an equally loud buzz.


Fat blue bee

This yellow butterfly has settled underneath a leaf.


Yellow sulfur butterfly

The almost pure white flowers of thumbai, find a place in rituals. This plant, along with wild indigo (Tephrosia purpurea) is also used in treating poisonous bites. In my younger days, we could see lots of butterflies, and honey bees visiting this plant.


Pure white thumbai flowers

This one has a small butterfly.


Small butterfly on thumbai plant

A weed similar to amman pachharisi, snake weed.


Weed similar to அம்மான் பச்சரிசி – Snake weed

Kanakambaram used to be popular with girls, who decorate their hair with this flower. So the plant used to be common in home gardens. Not so much today. This plant also produces seed pods, that when dry, pop open on contact with water. The flowers have a good deal of nectar.


Kanakambaram flowers

This wood sorrel plant, found some soil and moisture, between the cracks in the cement tiles. Another weed that attracts small bees.


Yellow wood sorrel

It is all these weeds, that the cleanerers have missed, that provide space for insect life to flourish. Insect life that is now attracted to a singularity in their midst. A single Veldt grape plant in bloom.

The plant did not have the “advantage” of science, which would reduced to a pathetic twig, that will grow only on life support of irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides. It retained its wild roots.

Tiny fruit flies showed up. These seem to have hunched backs, it might have been a genetic experiment gone wrong. Except that all the flies seemed to have the same “defect”.


Two fruit flies

Here is a honey bee, smaller than the bees seen earlier on siriyanangai plant. It has yellow hairs on its back legs. This bee is bigger than the dwarf honey bee, which has a black body. And smaller than a regular honey bee.


Small honey bee with yellow pollen sac on its legs

A slightly bigger, but similar looking bee.


Honey bee with yellow pollensacs, larger

A red wasp, the common type around here (Ropalidia marginata, a paper wasp). One can see its nest on walls, and on plants.


Red-brown paper wasp

Another wasp, of almost the same size, with a metallic blue body. This type is a frequent visitor.


Metallic blue wasp

This one could be a wasp or a bee, hard to say. There was a similar one with short yellow stripes, running parallel to its body, which seems to indicate that this is a wasp.


Black wasp with white stripes

This honey bee, doesn’t have yellow on its legs.


Honey bee, no prominent pollen sac


Honey bee, no prominent pollen sac

This wasp, much bigger than the other ones, has striking yellow legs. Its body and head are fully black, except for the thin midsection which is yellow. A mud-dauber perhaps, that builds nests of mud.


Black wasp with yellow legs

This honey bee, is the size of the rock bee (Apis dorsata), but looks different.


Big honey bee

Another honey bee, smaller than the regular honey bee.


Gray honey bee

This one is fatter, has a different pattern on its body, like stripes on a tiger, and is slightly smaller than the one on siriyanangai plant.


Tiger striped bee

A strange brown moth, it is quite tiny.


Little brown moth

The regular honey bee. Unfortunately not many of these visited the plant. Had to wait for a few days, before I could take a photo of this bee.


Honey bee

There were several types of flies, some too small to photograph. There was the regular domestic fly. Then this one hairy, with bright red eyes.


Black fly

A small one, shiny green.


Green fly

Another one, with greenish blue body.


Blue green fly

There was this moth, bluish-black, with an orange band, sipping nectar, in the bright morning sun.


Black moth with yellow band

And a bright green bee, on a sunflower next to the Veldt grape plant.


The beauty is not in the Veldt grape plant, but in the life that it nurtures, in the multiple connections that it forged. A wholeness that is greater than the sum of its parts. Bees, flies, wasps, and butterflies, find this plant, through means that are in many ways mysterious, to feed on its nectar. When the fruits ripen, there will be birds to feast on them. This single plant has created a summer buzz, the way life was meant to be.


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