The Elegant Partnership of Figs and Fig Wasps

It is widely believed that figs were actually the fruit in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, not apples. The early Olympic athletes used figs as a training food. Figs were also presented as laurels to the winners, becoming the first Olympic ‘medal.’ Chances are that you may be familiar with the common fig or ‘anjeer’ that has found its way from ancient art, to the early Olympics, to gourmet cuisine, and now also to our palettes. 

Fig trees do not flower

It is one of the 750 known species of ficus, and the Machan, one of the finest resorts in Lonavala is home to several of them. If you have seen a fig tree before, you must have noticed that unlike other fruit trees, fig trees do not flower. What is this mystery of the missing flower? This secret is hidden inside the garden that figs themselves make, and the special relationship that they have with fig wasps. 

The relationship between figs and fig wasps

Over 18 millions years ago, fig trees formed an elegant partnership with some tiny, stingless wasps. Fig trees produce a secret garden of tiny flowers, enclosed within a thick wall- this arrangement looks like a fruit. You may say that the flowers are inside the fruit. Each fig species depends on a particular type of wasp to pollinate its flowers. The female wasp enters the fruit through a small opening below it and deposits her eggs in a cavity. In this process, she may lose some parts of her wings and antennae. Along with the eggs, she also deposits the pollen collected from the original host fig. This allows the female flowers inside the fruit to pollinate and mature. After this, the female wasps die.

The female is born pregnant

After the fig develops, wasp eggs develop into larvae. After the pupal stage, the mature male’s first act is to mate with a female- even before she hatches. As such, the female will emerge pregnant. The male digs a tunnel through the fruit for the female to come out of it. The wingless male wasps cannot survive outside the fig for much longer. The females come out of the tunnel, picking up pollen on their way. They then fly to another tree of the same species for the cycle to continue. The pollinator females are fragile and only live for a day or two. However, they can travel upto 160 kilometers to find figs for pollination. 

Keystone species

The now ripened and wasp-free figs emit a fruity odor in the air that attracts squirrels, maynas, barbets, fruit bats, parakeets, macaws, and even the nocturnal loris and civets. Thus, figs are a keystone species as they sustain a variety of wildlife creatures. Scientists are now using figs for this power to kickstart rainforest regeneration in areas that have been locked. 

The Machan is dedicated towards the preservation of all the species in its ecosystem. If you think these creatures are interesting, you should explore our naturalist series and find out interesting facts about more commonly seen insects like termites and spiders to name a few. Our nature paradise near Mumbai is open for you to take a trail and explore every species from frogs and squirrels to thrushes and monkeys. 

The Naturalist Diaries: Termite Mounds, Soldiers and the Queen.

The Machan is an eco-friendly resort in Lonavala set in a recovering forest ecosystem in the hills of the Western Ghats. Its forests are home to one of nature’s best builders that are often only looked at as domestic nuisances. When you think of termites, probably the only thing that comes to your mind is that they’re wood eaters. However, termites or white ants are fairly interesting creatures with more than 2,000 known species in the world, and there is a lot one can learn about them. 

Termites are blind

Termites are small ant-like insects that live in mounds or nests on the ground. An interesting fact about them is that most worker and soldier termites are blind by virtue of not having eyes at all! They have sense organs located on the base of their antennae and tibiae that allow them to sense vibrations. Scientists have observed that some species choose which food sources to infest by sensing vibroacoustic signals emitted by various pieces of wood. They also use vibrations to communicate with one another. 

Termites versus Ants

Although their social structure resembles that of ants, termites are the descendants of cockroaches while ants are the descendants of wasps. Unlike ants, termites are strictly vegetarian and feed on dead wood, moss, and lichens. Ants are in fact the number one enemies for termites. Occasionally, termite and ant colonies that are near each other will go to war over territory and access to food.

Termite mounds

The construction of a mound begins from under the ground and has the same height below ground as it has above. The worker termites are responsible for building these mounds by mixing soil and their saliva. Due to its architecture, the mound is essentially air conditioned and remains seven degrees cooler than the temperature outside. Each nest or mound easily houses millions of termites in hundreds of chambers. 

The queen and mother of all termites

The inner sanctum or the queen’s chamber is the most guarded chamber of the mound. The queen is the mother of these millions of termites. A healthy female can lay more than 30,000 eggs in a day. She is attended by the worker termites responsible for feeding her, grooming her, and carrying her eggs into another chamber for hatching. Out of these eggs, nymphs are born that grow up to be workers. Termite queens have the longest lifespan of any insect in the world. Some termite queens may live between 30 and 50 years, reproducing annually and founding numerous colonies.

Ecosystem engineers

The height of the tallest termite mound recorded is 42 feet. It is found in the Republic of Congo. Although they are considered pests in houses, they play the role of ecosystem engineers in a forest. This is because they decompose all dead material from the forest floor. 

The Machan is dedicated towards the preservation of all the species in its ecosystem. If you think these creatures are interesting, you should explore our naturalist series and find out interesting facts about more commonly seen insects like butterflies and spiders to name a few. Our nature paradise near Mumbai is open for you to take a trail and explore every species from frogs and squirrels to thrushes and monkeys. 

Have you watched our previous video on the love story of frogs? Click Here

The Calls and Life Cycles of Frogs

Learn about the lifecycle of a frog from our naturalist neha!

Come monsoon and we begin sighting our favorite jumpy amphibians with bulging eyes, croaking sound, and slimy skin- frogs. Found all over the world, they are among the most diverse animals in the world, with more than 6,000 species. Luckily, the Machan, an eco-centric getaway in Lonavala, is home to some of them. As such, our dedicated team of naturalists have conducted research to study their needs and behavior. We see and hear frogs croaking in and around our houses every year, but how much do we know about them? Read this ‘ribbiting’ blog to learn interesting facts about frogs’ calls and lifecycle. 

Only male frogs croak to attract the females for reproduction

As mentioned, frogs are amphibians. Thus, they need both land and water to complete their life cycles. Frogs need to be around areas with a water source to reproduce, but other than that, they are found on every continent except Antarctica and in almost every environment. But a lesser known fact about them is that it is only the male frogs that croak, chirp, ribbit, or hoot. These calls, known as advertisement calls, are to attract female frogs for reproduction. Male frogs advertise themselves as potential partners, hoping to attract a female frog. Since every species has a distinct surrounding call, they can be identified by their calls. 

What is amplexus?

Since the purpose of these calls is reproduction, they mostly take place near wetlands, dams, streams, and other water bodies where eggs can be laid and tadpoles develop. When ready to mate, the male and female frogs form what is called an amplexus i.e., a type of mating behavior that shows external fertilization. The female forms a foam and lays her eggs in it. These are fertilized by the male. 

From tadpoles to adulthood

Once the eggs are fertilized, a frog’s life cycle begins as a tadpole. Tadpoles look like tiny fish and have gills to help them breathe underwater. They feed on small plants and algae in the water and later start to develop two front and back legs. Their tail starts getting shorter as they use the nutrients stored in it as food for development. Once this tail is completely lost, the frog becomes an adult.

Diet and lifespan

With a diet ranging from bugs and spiders to larvae and even small fish, the lifespan of most frogs in the wild ranges from three to six years and varies from species to species. Frogs are social creatures that live in groups. A group of frogs is called an army, colony or a knot. Groups of young frogs will even swim together in schools, much like fish.

The Machan is dedicated towards the conservation and protection of all the species in its ecosystem. If you think these creatures are interesting, you should explore our naturalist series and find out interesting facts about more commonly seen insects like termites and spiders to name a few. Our comfortable nature paradise near Mumbai is open for you to take a trail and explore every species from frogs and butterflies to thrushes and monkeys. 

Wildlife in the Western Ghats in Lonavala

The Machan -an eco-centric luxury resort in lonavala– proudly stands on forest land that has been recovering from slashing and burning for nearly thirty years now. Away from the hustles of the concrete lifestyle, the property stands at the heart of a unique system where flora, fauna, and humans can coexist without harming the others’ existence. 

In the process of repairing and building this jungle paradise, our team of naturalists have researched the species found in our primary and secondary forests. The Machan is home to a variety of animals and insects like butterflies, frogs, the Malabar whistling thrush, the funnel web spider, etc. Nature is vastly unexplored and there is something new to learn from and in it everyday. 

Malabar Whistling Thrush

Did you know that the Malabar whistling thrush is an omnivorous species with a dietary range from earthworms and berries to frogs and even crabs? Found in the Western Ghats and the associated hills of peninsular India (including central India and parts of the Eastern Ghats), this big thrush is blackish in color with shiny blue patches on its forehead and shoulders that are visible only in oblique lighting. Belonging to the muscicapidae family, they are also called the whistling schoolboy for their human-like whistles. You can find them nesting comfortably in a cavity by a stream or sometimes in a nearby building. 

Termites or White Ants

Also found in this ecosystem are termites or white ants. Termites are the descendents of wood eating cockroaches; they resemble ants due to their castism. A termite colony has a queen, workers, and soldiers. An interesting fact about them is that most worker and soldier termites are blind by virtue of not having eyes at all! The former is responsible for foraging, food storage, and nest or mound maintenance. Termites consume dead plants at any level of decomposition, hence they are detritivores. Due to this fact, they play a vital role in the ecosystem by recycling waste materials such as dead wood, faeces, and plants. 

Malabar Giant Squirrel 

Another thriving species found here is the Malabar giant squirrel. These members of the sciuridae family can live upto twenty years with a diet of fruits, flowers, nuts, birds’ eggs, and insects. Generally solitary, they are shy creatures with a deep red to brown coloured body with white patches on the belly and cream colored forelimbs. Their powerful and long tail is light brown with a creamy white tip. They are usually active early in the day and in the evening. During the day, they rest in their large, globe-like nests made of twigs and leaves. Each squirrel has about two to five nests- one for nursing their young ones and the others for sleeping. 

Purple Sunbird

The purple sunbird of the nectariniidae family is a glorious jewel in our ecosystem. These ferocious birds can live for nearly twenty-two years in captivity and will call to mob owls and other predators. They prefer lightly wooded country and gardenscapes and mainly feed on nectar. They have a short, downwards curving bill and a dark, short, and square ended tail ending in a white tip. 

Funnel Web Spider

Did you know there are more local spider species than just your house spider? For example, the funnel web spider of the agelenidae family. Per their name, they build funnel shaped webs to trap their prey. This funnel leads to a silk burrow that acts like a protective hiding place for quickly grabbing their prey. Males are less successful at this task than females, but all members of this family are very fast runners, especially on their webs.

If you think these creatures are interesting, you should explore our naturalist series and find out interesting facts about more commonly seen insects like frogs and butterflies to name a few. Do you know why frogs call at night? Hint: there’s romance involved! There’s a lot to look out for at our getaway near mumbai. 

Carbon Neutrality at the Machan

As we idly sit by locked up in our homes and waiting on the world to change, we must realize that it is up to us to change it. This year let’s focus on reimagining and recreating the future by restoring the environment. We are capable of great deeds but often lack the emotion to execute them. Let’s find it in our hearts to be gentle to the future generation by increasing biological diversity, eliminating waste, and reducing our carbon footprint.

The Hospitality Industry and its Carbon Footprint

The hotel industry is currently responsible for 21% of the global carbon footprint and is projected to increase up to 25% by 2035. An average hotel uses its energy on space heating (31%), water heating (22%), refrigeration (31%), cooking (12%), and lighting (3%). This seems to be a very heavy price to pay for luxurious living. Can’t we find a balance between life and luxury?

Carbon Neutrality

Carbon neutrality refers to achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions. This can be done by balancing emissions of carbon dioxide with its removal or by eliminating emissions from society. As of today, the world generates 36 billion tons of carbon each year, while in India, one person is estimated to generate 1.91 tons each year. India as a country produces 2.5 billion tons of CO2 every year, which is 6.8% of the total global emissions. We all must do our part to decrease our carbon footprint, and achieve carbon neutrality for a sustainable future.

Carbon Neutrality at the Machan

At the Machan, we follow the sustainability model of people planet, and profit. This reflects in our philosophy of preservation, conservation, and community. The Machan is targeting to achieve carbon neutrality by 2023. We hope we can inspire other resorts worldwide to start their journey on becoming carbon neutral.

The journey towards Carbon Neutrality

Carbon neutrality can be achieved in the hotel industry through the following ways.

  • Using Solar and wind energy: We are primarily powered by solar and wind energy and built sustainably for the future.
  • Barren Land Adoption and Tree Plantation: Over a thousand new trees are planted every year, which has been a 25-year long effort of converting barren land into lush greenery.
  • Protecting Biological Diversity: We protect 100 acres around the Machan from hunting, overgrazing, and tree cutting.
  • Greywater Recycling: We recycle all grey water and utilize it to water the plants.

World Bicycle Day: Finding the balance

We all remember that sense of accomplishment when we rode a bicycle successfully for the first time. Constantly worried about falling down, but as we grew up, we realized that riding a bicycle is just like riding through life. We are always trying to perfectly balance ourselves on those slim wheels of life, without plummeting on either side…

Those nostalgic bicycle rides with our childhood friends used to be our daily dose of happiness and joy, but the pollution of modern-day city life seem to have clouded those memories. This world bicycle day, we at the Machan try to revive and relive that same experience in the midst of nature, and hope to find the right balance between nature and luxury.

Why World Bicycle Day is celebrated?

We celebrate the uniqueness and longevity of the bicycle to reimagine, recreate and restore the future. In a study conducted by the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy, it was found that in the present scenario, bikes and e-bikes make up 6% of total miles traveled in world cities. If by 2050, bikes and e-bikes make up 14% of travel, there would be an overall 11% reduction in carbon emissions.

World Bicycle Day 2021

2021 is the era of eco-awakening. It draws attention towards a futuristic and sustainable transportation system that promotes economic growth, reduces inequality while supporting the fight against climate change. In many progressive and eco-centric countries, people are making this switch from cars to bicycles whenever they can.

Bicycles are simple, affordable, and environmentally sustainable means of transportation. It is an amazing sight when a group of bikers in their pointy little helmets and gears, pass you by in whoosh. You instantly get motivated to ride a bicycle yourself!

Cycling along the Western Ghats at the Machan

Riding a bicycle among lush greenery amplifies its physical and psychological benefits. The Machan is the only resort in Lonavala that lets you explore a biological hotspot in the Western Ghats within the protected paths of the Machan. Hop on to one of our bicycles and take it for a spin anytime you want!

Benefits of cycling to the environment

Riding a bicycle reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the impact of air pollutants like methane, carbon dioxide, and chlorofluorocarbons. The largest car factory is 70 million square feet, making 3,800 cars a day, which is 13,87,000 cars in a year, which is an additional 63,80,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. Doesn’t that number shock you? Be a part of something greater than yourself to save valuable green spaces from deforestation by adopting the habit of riding a bicycle. The global average carbon footprint per person is 4 tons, which needs to drop to 2 tons by 2050 to ensure a sustainable future. Won’t you like to be a part of this revolutionary journey?

Capturing the moon

We at the machan have always tried our best to inspire and initiate the creative journey of artists and explorers. We thank and congratulate 16 year old Anvit Khade for validating that belief by capturing the moon at the machan from his homemade telescope.

Our curiosity paves our future and having said that we wish Anvit a bright and starlit future.

the machan bonfire

This refractor telescope is made by Anvit on 19th December 2020. This was his first attempt at making one from scratch. Anvit is studying 10th std Euroschool -Airoli Navi Mumbai. He has a deep passion for the subjects physics and Mathematics. Mr. Udayan Sathe (HOD physics at Euro school) has inculcated an interest in this subject in Anvit from 7th std. The astronomy club at the school also helped him to get more knowledge in stargazing. 
Stargazing was the main attraction of visiting Machan. As the location of the resort is just perfect.. away from city light pollution and truly in laps of nature. Anvit could explore his photography skills from macro photography as well as astrophotography. 
For our family, this was a very good break and a lovely experience at Machan. Apart from stargazing we really enjoyed nature trail, forest bath, private bonfire, night walk studying insects (I forgot the name of an expert who guided us for these activities..she was wonderful). We liked literally everything at the machan. Actually, we were looking out for Starlight machan experience, but unfortunately as per our schedule, it was not available. 
Thank you for giving us this opportunity to share our experience.

Ar. Swapna Navin Khade ( M/O Anvit)

We are glad the machan was a part of this creative process. Let’s also hear a few words from the Anvit himself about his creative journey.

I referred 10th std Physics ICSE text book.. did all necessary 
calculations of focal length etc. Apart from pvc pipes from local shop, everything else was recycled from old stuff at home. 
I was quite excited to watch jupiter saturn conjunction for which I assembled this telescope.

Anvit Khade

Isn’t it exciting to see the new generation being so much more concerned about the environment!? We are glad that the machan philosophy of preservation,. conservation and community reflect in Anvit work.