It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside when corporations try to do good deeds. Especially deeds involving seeds.
General Mills however seems like they are trying to cash in on the general guilt of the decimation of bees in North America with their latest wildflower seed campaign. As a PR move, they took their bee logo off the box to symbolize the vanishing honey bee and put “bee-friendly” wildflower seeds inside – 1.5 Billion seeds have been distributed in total. That is a lot of seeds which means a lot of boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios where sold for this campaign. Sounds like effective greenwashing.
More than two thirds of the crops used to feed people, accounting for 90 percent of the world’s nutrition, are pollinated by bees, and bee population has been decreasing by the millions.
Planting wildflowers to provide nectar for pollinators seems like a good idea, but these wildflower seeds are being distributed all over the country and not all seeds are suitable in all areas. Some include classified invasive species. Amongst the giveaway flower seeds include the Forget-Me-Not which is banned in Massachusetts for being a noxious weed, and Another flower, the California poppy, is listed as an invasive plant in the southeast.
Ecologist Kathryn Turner says “Invasive species can out-compete the natives they encounter, they can take up all the space and use up all the resources, they can spread disease, and cause other physical changes to their new homes, all of which can have detrimental effects on native species, and on humans.”
How you can help:
Think outside the Cheerio’s box.
If you a planting a wildflower garden, be sure not to use pesticides that can harm the bees. Also leave space at the root of plants for bees to lay eggs. Not all species of bees live in colonies inside honey combed bee hives you image and it’s not just they honey bee that is endangered. Some lone ranger bees lay eggs in tiny tunnels in the ground.
While a generic seed package isn’t a nationwide solution, planting native and endangered wildflowers can help the bee population thrive. What is odd is that Cheerios partnered with Xerces, an organization which uses locally customized, ecologically friendly seed mixes, but did not them.
There are also a regional gardening guides to help you figure out the best plants to buy and if you want to look up plants you already have, go to USDA’s PLANTS database. The green states are where the plants are native.
Habitats around farmland are also crucial, and Cheerios is recognizing this. Although the oats in the cereal are actually wind pollinated, and don’t need bees. however the insecticides used to spray the crops kill the weeds that the bees do depend on.
Last Spring, General Mills announced that by the end of 2020, farms that grow oats for Cheerios will house almost 3,300 acres of dedicated pollinator habitat within 60,000 acres of land. Although they act like their crops depend on honey bees and the truth is that they don’t, these wildflower areas can still be beneficial for bees, even if it has little to do with the product. Burt’s Bees is also doing a similar thing, and their products to require bees.
Individual people with small plots of land can help in the same way as these corporations. Patches of bee-friendly flowers help as long as they are safe to the region. While the efforts of Cheerios may have been misguided, it may shed light on what we can all do to effectively participate in the propagation of pollinators.