Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Honeybee Breed Key to Combating Colony Collapse Disorder

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California

A British beekeeper has been working on creating a new strain of honeybee resistant to the varroa mite, a prime suspect in colony collapse disorder (CCD), and it looks like he's hit a high note after 18 years of careful observation and selective breeding. Ron Hoskins found that bees in one of his hives figured out what a great idea mutual grooming can be -- they learned to clean the mites off one another. Hoping that this learned behavior is hereditary, he spread the genes of bees from this colony to his other hives. It worked. Now, combating CCD could be linked in no small part to how quickly the new strain of bee spreads across the country.

Daily Mail reports that the British Beekeepers Association is excited about the work Hoskins has done, and the hope is the drones from his "grooming" bees will mate with wandering female queens to spread the heartier genes across Britain. It could take quite a long time, and a lot of generations of bees before the behavior becomes normal, but if it's a way to combat the mites that wipe out entire colonies, then it's quite an exciting evolution to witness.

Hoskins, who is from Swindon, has named the new strain the "Swindon Honeybee" and all his colonies consist of this new breed. And the behavior might be the only thing that can save honeybees from the verroa mite:... read more story at

Monday, August 23, 2010

Loblaws' Grown Close to Home Foods...Aren't

by Bonnie Alter, London

Way back in 2007, TreeHugger Lloyd went to Loblaws, Canada's largest supermarket chain, looking for fresh local food in July and he found: cherries.

It's three years later and things have changed--sort of. Now they have a little booth at the front of the store called "Grown Close to Home" and they are selling Ontario peaches and potatoes and cucumbers. But right behind it they have their cherries from the USA and pineapple from Costa Rica. That's a rather broad definition of local. We aren't the only ones noticing this...local farmers and shoppers are pretty annoyed too.

Calling it " Grown Close to Home", the store crows that it is "bringing the
farmers market to Canadian neighbourhood grocery stores -- all in one
convenient location with bushels of variety." They are doing that for us lucky shoppers because hitting a "farmers market doesn't always fit with the realities of Canadians' hectic lifestyles."

Their definition of local and commitment to buying locally is broad. For example, Ontario peaches shipped to the western provinces are still considered part of the event. One Halifax shopper complained to the local newspaper because she "spotted plums and radishes from the United States along with rows of peaches, plums and nectarines from Ontario, with the words Grown Close to Home and the Atlantic Grown logo on the signs for some products." Loblaws apologised.

The Globe & Mail, Canada's national newspaper, points out that the farmers participating in the program are very large operations, some with hundreds and thousands of hectares, and greenhouses in Mexico and South America as well. This hardly benefits local farmers.

The Farmers' Markets Canada which represents 550 farmers markets across the country says that according to their research, farmers receive just 10% to 21% of the retail price of their produce at supermarkets, "not enough for a small family farm to survive on, while at farmers markets they get to keep an average 84%."... read more story at

Friday, August 13, 2010

NASA: Jan-July Hottest on Record, 2010 Shaping Up to be Warmest Year Yet

by Brian Merchant, Brooklyn, New York

Okay, you get it. It's hot. Perhaps I've been ticked off by one too many 'global cooling' myth purveyors, but here it is -- another story about how hot it is this summer, and this year in general. NASA has released another report showing that from Jan. to July, 2010 is still the hottest year ever recorded. Last July was in a three-way tie for the hottest of that month ever recorded. And yes, while it's still a bit uncertain, all signs seem to point to 2010 being the hottest year ever.

Here's more from NASA, which released the info in an article aptly titled 'What Global Warming Looks Like':

The July 2010 global map of surface temperature anomalies [above figure], relative to the average July in the 1951-1980 period of climatology, provides a useful picture of current climate. It was more than 5°C (about 10°F) warmer than climatology in the eastern European region including Moscow. There was an area in eastern Asia that was similarly unusually hot. The eastern part of the United States was unusually warm, although not to the degree of the hot spots in Eurasia.

... read more story at

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Goat Rentals For Weed Control: Perfect For Managing Steep Slopes, Woody Plants, & Air Quality

by John Laumer, Philadelphia

Last week I wrote about the zero-emission bow-knife for vegetable garden weed control. For certain tasks the bow-knife is superior to any gasoline powered weed-wacker. It's not very good for trimming on steep slopes and handling woody shrubs, however. For those situations, there are few better methods for weed control than goat grazing. However, few of us would want to be a full time goat herd and if you left them there they would over-graze. Enter the perfect solution: goat rentals.

Gwendolyn Bounds covers the goat rental option for the Wall Street Journal in Free-Range Landscaping: and Others Bring in Herds to Trim the Yard, Get Rid of Weeds. Goats, apparently, fit into the corporate office landscape as well as they would in the hills around century old mansions. Goats also are a safe alternative to power tools (can't rip a foot off or tip over on you like a mower); they're cost competitive; and, IRS has no jurisdiction. But there are drawbacks; and Gwendolyn has some amusing ones to share... more story at