Promiscuous honeybee queens = more productive hives

honeybee on monarda

Score another one for biodiversity.  Seems like I recall someone pointing out that narrow honeybee genetics might be one of the contributing factors to colony collapse disorder. (Read more pollinator posts.)

From a Cornell Chronicle article summarizing a paper in the July 20 issue of Science:

To study the reasons for honeybees’ promiscuity, the Cornell biologists inseminated 12 queens with sperm from 15 drones (a different set for each) and nine additional queens with sperm from a single drone (but a different one in each case). They then prompted the hives to swarm in early June to form new colonies.

“After only two weeks of building new nests, the genetically diverse colonies constructed 30 percent more comb, stored 39 percent more food and maintained foraging levels that were 27 to 78 percent higher than genetically uniform colonies,” said Mattila.

By the end of the summer, the genetically diverse colonies had five times more bees, eight times more reproductive males and heavier average body weights, mostly because of larger amounts of stored food.

By winter’s end, 25 percent of the genetically diverse colonies survived to their one-year anniversary (only about 20 percent of new honeybee colonies make it that long in upstate New York). But all of the genetically uniform hives starved to death.

“These differences are noteworthy considering colonies had similarly sized worker populations when they were first formed,” said Mattila. “Undoubtedly, our results reveal enormous benefits of genetic diversity for the productivity of honeybee colonies.”

And don’t miss Amy’s great post about bee gardening over at GardenRant, including this video from KQED:

Living wall installation

Back in May, I posted about my friend Marguerite and the business she and her partner run. (See Motherplants: Where green roofs are born.) About a month ago, I swung by a site in Ithaca where she was working with a group of volunteers to prep planting units for a living wall.

living wall long shot

Marguerite instructed the young and old alike who turned out on a hot day to transplant sedums and other living roof plants from flats into plastic wall hanging units.

living wall long shot

living wall instructionsliving wall planting

Originally, the plan was to install the planting on the roof. But the required retrofitting to beef it up enough to hold the extra weight proved too expensive. So Plan B was to locate the planting where runoff from the roof will run over the plants.

living wall plantingliving wall test

The planted units were laid flat to root thoroughly and then hung a few weeks later. (See finished wall below.)

While I like the idea of green/living roofs, I don’t see too many homeowners diving in. I like the idea of trying it out on a small scale, like these doghouses I shot at Marguerite’s place or this garden shed, birdhouse and other applications blogged by Melissa over at her Gardenshed Hall of Fame website.

living wall finished

For more info about green/living roots, visit the Motherplants website.

Brawndo’s got what plants crave

idiocracyThe dialog below is from the 2006 movie, Idiocracy. But to really appreciate it, you should listen to this mp3.

The premise of the movie: Average guy (Joe) in hibernation experiment wakes up 500 years later to find out American intelligence has been dumbed down — literally transported to the shallow end of the gene pool fueled by generations of advertising and marketing.

The problem with this dystopian fantasy is that it’s too close to the truth: The number-one TV show is ‘Ow, My Balls,’ the Secretary of State is brought to you by Carl’s Jr., and the smart lawyer got into Costco’s law school because his dad pulled some strings.

The world’s food supply is also in trouble because farmers put Brawndo — a kind of sports-beverage for plants — on their crops instead of water. Joe tries to talk them out of it:

Joe: “For the last time, I’m pretty sure what’s killing the crops is this Brawndo stuff.”
Secretary of State: “But Brawndo’s got what plants crave. It’s got electrolytes.”
Attorney General (Sara Rue): “So wait a minute. What you’re saying is that you want us to put water on the crops.”
Joe: “Yes.”
Attorney General: “Water. Like out the toilet?”
Joe: “Well, I mean, it doesn’t have to be out of the toilet, but, yeah, that’s the idea.”
Secretary of State: “But Brawndo’s got what plants crave.”
Attorney General: “It’s got electrolytes.”
Joe: “Okay, look. The plants aren’t growing, so I’m pretty sure that the Brawndo’s not working. Now, I’m no botanist, but I do know that if you put water on plants, they grow.”
Secretary of Energy (Brendan Hill): “Well, I’ve never seen no plants grow out of no toilet.”
Secretary of State: “Hey, that’s good. You sure you ain’t the smartest guy in the world?”
Joe: “Okay, look. You wanna solve this problem. I wanna get my pardon. So why don’t we just try it, okay, and not worry about what plants crave?”
Attorney General: “Brawndo’s got what plants crave.”
Secretary of Energy: “Yeah, it’s got electrolytes.”
Joe: “What are electrolytes? Do you even know?”
Secretary of State: “It’s what they use to make Brawndo.”
Joe: “Yeah, but why do they use them to make Brawndo?”
Secretary of Defense: “‘Cause Brawndo’s got electrolytes.”

Just a word to the wise.

Sunday music: Wonderlust King, Lela Pala Tute

Not the best cut from their latest CD, Super Taranta. But Eugene Hutz and Gogol Bordello put together a pretty good global road song here. I like the clips of gypsy musicians jamming and kids dancing from the forthcoming documentary, The Pied Piper of Hutzovina, due out in September. (View trailer.)

Wonderlust KingAdd to My Profile | More Videos

So last Saturday, I tune in LiveEarth just in time to catch Madonna’s last song, the climax of at the London venue. Turns out, minutes before she had Hutz and another bandmate onstage to sing their traditional gypsy song, Lela Pala Tute. Broadcasting to hundreds of millions of people worldwide. And I missed it. Oh well. The Madonna big production number at LiveEarth wasn’t nearly as lovely as this version with Hutz singing in the backseat of a car.