Lifescapes Gallery

19 / May / 2010
The farmer who bites his cattle
Honey ant and aphids, Kabini Photograph: Ganesh H. Shankar Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy

The farmer who bites his cattle

The pastoral society of Kabini is the stage where an intrepid breed of farmers herds their cattle right under the noses of large predators who are none the wiser for the event. Perhaps it helps that the ‘cattle’, in this Lilliputian saga, are no larger than a grain of rice, and their minders aren’t much bigger. It all started when the Honey Ants of Kabini decided it was no fun scrounging around for their beloved sugar when they could have it delivered at their doorstep. So they entered into a quid pro quo with the sugar secreting Aphids, by offering them protection, in exchange for a regular tribute of the honeydew that they excreted. Desiring a better supply, they regularly ‘milked’ the aphids with their antennae to produce delicious honeydew. The aphids didn’t seem to mind too much, as that left them with one less thing to do, and they could concentrate on the more pleasurable job of gorging themselves silly on all those juicy plants. This mutual arrangement evolved into professionally run diary farms with large herds of ‘ant-cows’ that were well tended and provided with fresh pastures. The ants aggressively defended their cattle against predators, and have been known to go on ‘search and destroy’ missions to root out the eggs of aphid predators. Of course, such a possessive love has its dark shades too, and our ant farmers obviously don’t believe in the dictum of, ‘If you love someone, set them free…’ Whenever some aphids threaten to grow wings and take flight, they nip the idea in the bud, by actually biting off the wing. This, as those with a sweet tooth will agree, is a good way to ensure your sugar supply doesn’t run out on you.

We at Orange County have loved sharing this story with you, and shall bring you one every fortnight, as part of our Responsible Tourism Initiatives to raise awareness about the nature and culture of the environments we operate in.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010 at 10:00 am and is filed under Insects, Kabini . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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User Comments
  1. Morris Sung says:

    I’d always want to be update on new blog posts on this web site , saved to favorites ! .

  2. B.Ashok says:

    Such profound vision from an 8 year old is unbelievable !! In today’s rat race where 1 does not have time to even give a glimpse of the beauty that God’s has to offer whereas an 8 year stated not only does she want to show the world of his work but conserve it for posterity. Amazing – keep up GOD’s work. God bless ur breed and may it grow in leaps and bounds. Cheers..

  3. admin says:

    For the late-comers, we had a “Winning Commentator” Contest on this issue. The contest’s validity ended on 1st June, 2010. Eight year old Aayana has won an elegant coffee table book for the most interesting comment:

    What an interesting story about the honey-ants and the aphid-cows. Nature has so much to show and tell, and we humans have a lot to learn. I liked the photo a lot but I also loved the story of the Liliput world of these animals. I am 8 years old, and when I grow up, I want to be a photographer or an animal conserver. This picture makes me want to be both.

  4. poonam says:

    A winner Rightly chosen

  5. Aline Dobbie says:

    Lovely photograph and this is an excellent way of making everyone conscious of our natural world and how we must help protect it. I love Orange County Kabini and am very happy to visit that serene lovely place and wish them all well – I was there so briefly this year off The Golden Chariot train and made a gallery

  6. Maria Mathews says:

    Well, the story of aphids and honey ants reminds me of Mr. X who works for a software company. It all started with globalization when these multinational companies thought of employing minimum number of hard working young energetic candidates for maximum output. So they offered them an attractive package in exchange for a 24/7 job that extracts all their brains out for the better growth of the company. Mr. X did not seem to mind too much as that left him with a better living society, money, friends and a cozy atmosphere to do his job. This mutual arrangement caused the infinite growth of IT industries. The idea of “computerization” has left organizations in other segments too dependents of these industries which in turn boosted the career opportunities of people like Mr. X. He felt so proud of himself for making his life and career safe. At this point of time we must remind Mr. X the old saying… ” do not love your company more than yourself because you do not know when will the company stops loving you.” Yes, ofcourse there are hidden dangers like recession and pink slips, if you try to act smart, there is no mercy, you are FIRED!!

    So, the moral of the story: let it be Kabini or MNC, the mechanism is same everywhere.

  7. Rajkumar K says:


  8. Monica says:

    Very very nicely written story. Really interesting & fun and has all the ingredients – dry wit, sly wordplay & an arresting picture – for guaranteed recall for a very loooong time!

    Here’s my comment for the contest-

    ‘I got your back’,
    Said the ant to the aphid
    ‘gather honey, dont be slack
    Our partnership goes acrid,
    if you try growing wings
    and attempt to escape,
    i’ll kill status quo on things
    and snip you back into shape’.

  9. Sheri says:

    As the misheard line of Bob Dylan’s notes, “The ants are my friends; they’re blowing in the wind; the ants are blowing in the wind.” The aphids have certainly chosen wisely, in picking their protective friends.

    • Monica says:

      The ants are my friends!! Brilliant, Sheri. I’m having one of those, “i wish i had thought of that” moments 😀

  10. shanthi.k.r says:

    WOW…what a refreshing picture…. g8 photo graph..a visual treat…” the farmer who bites his cattle”…… thanks to lifescapes for bring us so close to natures lesser known secrets in such a beutiful creative presentation…hats off..lifescapes team…

  11. Vishnu.M says:

    “First come,First milked”

  12. Salini.B says:

    “As you sow, so shall you reap “

  13. k n mohankumar says:

    i love this photograph. it would be useful if the photographer adds few details like what camera? lens? used. and the picture specs like aperture, shutter etc.

    • admin says:

      Dear Mohan,

      Thanks for your comment. Ganesh has already posted the EXIF in one of the comments below. This is for your information.

  14. Appu Sebastian says:

    “Bite me honey!”

  15. vidhya v govind says:

    Awesome pic ! good work Ganesh 🙂

    Lifescapes by Orange County……..keep us city dwellers ,connected with nature . the fact is – the person who opens this mail is sure to have a visual treat every fortnight which transforms his or her brief moment in time – to a reminder of being blessed to be on this beautiful ” Planet Earth “.

  16. Andrew George Varghese says:

    May I comment on all the photographs and comments that you have sent me this far. I will TRY to be brief.

    The anecdotes have amazing English with crisp humour and clarity and metaphors. each is an excellent English literature class.

    The photographs in my rating has surpassed National Geograhic in clarity, sharpness and resemblance to the anecdote.

    I have lost some of the photographs which I have been collecting and I wish i could have all of the Orange County Lifescapes gallery put out so far.

    I honestly did not know that one corner of Karnataka contained so much of nature’s goodness.

    God bless you!

    • Jose Ramapuram (Director - Marketing, Orange County Resorts) says:

      Dear Andrew,

      Thank you for your comments. Comments like yours have been the source of inspiration for our contributors to constantly outdo themselves. I must say that the entire Lifescapes team has been practicing yoga to try and pat themselves on the back after reading all the wonderful comments.All previous issues of Lifescapes have been catagorised and archived in the Lifescapes website. You can reach the Lifescapes Gallery at . A big thank you once again from the Lifescapes team.

  17. Sandeep says:

    ” An Aphid a day keeps the Winter away ”

    Winter Honey ants are really spectacular when their abdomen increases in size as they save their food for the Winter 🙂

  18. maria says:

    There are no emotions in real nature but by observing these behaviors we can deal with our society a little better. Nature is never greedy, you will always receive help for helping others if you were a part of it and that is it’s incredible beauty.

  19. Lancy Vas says:

    The LOVE, CARE, PROTECTION AND DEDICATION of this small MOTHER is scentillating to watch. Gods creations are beyond our imagination……….. Out of all these HE has created a replica of SELF and HE has called it MOTHER…..

  20. Steffi Christopher says:

    Honey~~ I ain’t sweet!

  21. Clifton says:

    The honey ant as tiny as it may be
    is blown out of proportion so beautifully by Orange County.
    The picture and the story put together
    Enchants the reader to wait for another.

  22. Malini says:

    love of the senses
    ever mindful and awake to fulfill the need of the carnal self

    visual beauty
    now awaiting some more and more from the “Spirit of the Land”
    give us more so we can remember how far away we are
    from our beloveds and our homeland

    abandoned for the love of our lives
    riven between two worlds
    what else but nostalgia ripping us apart
    but also the love of the senses and successes
    give us more

    -Malini from NJ

  23. Ganesh H. Shankar says:

    Hi Cjoi, I used Nikon D200 and Nikon 105mm f2.8 micro lens for this image.

    For those who are known to photographic jargons -:) here is the EXIF – Nikon D200, Nikon 105mm f2.8 micro at f16, ISO 400 at 1/125s.

    Here in this below link you can see the tiny honey dew about to be consumed by the ant. This action lasts only fractions of a second. The ants seem to gently tap the aphid and the tiny dew comes out and disappears in no time. This is very hard to normally see but patience and high speed imaging lets us capture such moments in nature. For the image link here –

    Thank you all for your views..

  24. Rajesh says:

    Natures own barter system. Amazing. I remember other such “i scratch your back, you scratch mine” deals in the animal kingdom, but this one is by far the smartest. Wicked, like the English would say. Almost smacks of Natures own barter system. Almost smacks of Lagaan, not the movie, but the premise for this Aamir Khan epic. I love the sly-sweet tone of the writer, which is why I devour every mail from Lifescapes. The farmer who bites his cattle indeed. What will it be next? I’m waiting. Oh… did I mention that your photographs are amazing too? Quite a NatGeo touch there. I mean that as a compliment.

  25. Ramakrishnan M.R. says:

    I and my wife love your fortnightly posts and cherish the time we spent at Kabini. Thanks!

  26. Shashi Wadhera says:

    Dear nature observer,
    I have always loved reading lifescapes by orange county.The simple life incidents happening at the heart of the wild, and the soothing nature description as if it were a story of a dear neighbour is visually touching.

  27. cjoi says:

    Awesome picture. Curious to know which is the camera and lens that you used?

  28. kavitha K R says:

    What is nature when you dont feel it? We sit in the concrete jungle away from the untouched nature. One can feel Nature in every word in “Honey ant and aphids” Hats off to the contributors of this article who has enlightened us about Corporate world of Ants. Good going!…pls Keep up this creativity thru out!… Cheers!

  29. Aman Dhari Sinha says:

    teaches you not to be ‘ant’isocial!

  30. Ramakrishnan M R says:

    Inspiring! Not only is the article awe inspiring in terms of its visual appeal (makes me want to improve my Photography Skills), it also brings out facts of nature so well and inspires readers on the art of communication! Its one thing to take photos but totally another to present them the way you do! And yes, it wouldnt be unfair to say your posts also touch upon the philosophy of life! Dil Mange More!

  31. Anuj Desai says:

    All the “ant” here are hard working…the Honey “Ants” and their ” ant”ennae….

    The concept of having to pay through your nose (or backs in this case) for “protection” has its roots in the animal kingdom which has now spread to the underworld….

    Indeed the rewards of providing protection are sweet…..

  32. Kannan .K.V. says:

    Ant, the smarty pant.Who said ants are just hard workers?
    They are smart workers as well, running their own dairy farm.WOW!!1Thanks for the informative articles and the stunning photographs.

  33. Ajit says:

    Supply and Demand 🙂

    Looks like the ever demanding ants are fighting to keep their supplies high, hence trying to maintain an equilibrium. Only a few market control tactics like nipping off the supplier’s wings. But no great harm done.

    Wonderful article with eye catching picture.
    Love your work.


  34. Sathyadevi says:

    The farmer who bites his cattle is really a heart touching one. It is true that if ‘you love someone, set them free…’ otherwise you may lose them too…

    I will become a fan to this web page if you post more like this. I would love to give comments.

    – Sathya 🙂

  35. PRAMODH says:

    Its a fascinating world of “Ant – Cows” resemebles the job of a hotelier safeguarding and taking care of “GUESTS”

  36. Rishi madan says:

    The amazing photograph with awesome details tells just 10% of the story !

    The rest is all the beautiful imagery of the words, the story woven in and around the photographs and its super stars. And the fact that all the masala & politics of the world is found in coorg or kabini is oustanding !

    The ant & the aphid relationship is something i did not know. i guess hafta vasuli (protection money or in this case protection honey) works in every economy – human or insect.

    i hope this story will be taken a bit more further and woven into a tale like the panchtantra. The narration is fantastic

  37. neesha says:

    Well it’s the photography which creates the story so hats off to Ganesh Shankar for sharing with us all the natures divine and supporting the storyline photography is incomplete……. Orange County has best natural exposure….

  38. Aayana Rai Bhojani says:

    What an intresting story about the honey-ants and the aphid-cows. Nature has so much to show and tell, and we humans have a lot to learn. I liked the photo a lot but I also loved the story of the Liliput world of these animals. I am 8 years old, and when I grow up, I want to be a photographer or an animal conserver. This picture makes me want to be both.


  39. Sunil Jain says:


  40. amar lulla says:


    • Meena Waghray says:

      A Visual treat and language treat…trust me I have never seen an Ant so close forget the aphid…nor did I hear words of such eloquence for these unnoticed very useful species in nature.
      Least we forget we need to save Tigers in Jungles and ANTS in the cities.

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