After my previous article on wild honey thought it would be appropriate to write about a real incident which my husband witnessed. It was in back in 1991. when we were refugees from Kuwait, and my husband was travelling from Madikeri to Virajpet in an open top Jeep. When he was nearing a small village called Kakotuparmbu, he noticed something on the side of the road ahead, a human like figure rolling/wriggling on the ground close to the road with what appeared to be a cloud over it. At first he thought someone must be drunk and sleeping….. or perhaps someone is sick. When he neared the person he wanted to stop and check to see if he could help..suddenly, he realized that the person on the ground was been attacked by swarm of thousands of wild bees, and he got scared because he was driving an open jeep and there was no where to hide if they were to attack him.
The person appeared to be an old tribal lady and was screaming in pain. The cry was heart wrenching. my husband looked at the back of the Jeep for a blanket or bed-sheet or any material that he could use to either shield himself as he went out, or to at least throw at her while he could go get help. If he got out he would be attacked by the angry bees too. A real catch 22 situation. There were no houses nearby. My husband, even though had all the intention of helping could not provide immediate assistance. Instead, he drove away into the next town and when he reached the nearest shop and sight of some people, he stopped and narrated them what was happening and requested if someone could come help. They did go back to help her but by then it was little late. They shifted her to the Virajpet hospital where she succumbed to the bee stings. It haunted him for a long time and he would wake up some times in the middle of the night… he would say any time I think of it or dream of it I feel like electricity pass through my body… I can still hear her cry… I wish I could help her in some way. May be there was something I could do.
Because someone was killed or attacked by the wild bees, we cannot brand the wild (or domesticated) bees to be bad killers. They attack only when they or their territory is disturbed. It can be a broken branch or someone or something trying to get the honey out. Sometimes the mischief mongers will throw stones and run away or easiest and the most effective disturbance is reflecting the sun light through mirror. For some obvious reason the bees gets real agitated. Most of the time it is children who do it for fun without realizing the consequences. Unfortunately the one who disturbed will run away but someone innocently walking nearby will pay the price like the tribal lady.
The place where the lady was attacked, there are many bee hives but not on burga tree but on wild jackfruit tree… perhaps a variety most of you have not heard of. In Coorg it is called “adina chakke” (the normal one is called chakke). It is much smaller in size which fits in the palm, almost the size of a bread fruit. It has small yellow fruit arils. And the seeds like a bird’s egg. The trees are too tall and unlike the other jackfruit the fruit does not grow on the stem but grows on top of the tree on canopy among the leaves. The arils are half the size of thumb. It is smooth and tastes sourish-sweet and you can put couple of arils in mouth at a time!! The fruit does not contain any sticky substance and all the arils are stuck to the center inedible rind of the fruit. When ripe or when the monkey or the birds eat them, the fruit or seed will fall to the ground. Fruit is seasonal. Inside the white jacket the seed has a slightly thicker coating. Unlike the normal jackfruit seed, when dry you can simply remove the coating and eat them raw. It tastes pretty good. Haven’t eaten hem in ages. Any time walking under the tree we would search for the seed and eat them. It is another kind of tree favourite to the wild honey bees. I will post the pictures of the tree later. The adinachakke is not deciduous and there are too many leaves on the canopy. So its little difficult to photograph the fruits.