The population of bees is declining and Cheerios maker General Mills wants to help so it decided to send free wildflower seeds packets across the country.
Bring Back The Bees Campaign
The company recently gave out 1.5 billion wildflowers seeds that are meant to be planted across the United States but the "Bring Back the Bees" campaign is facing controversy. Despite the good intentions, some think the move could be dangerous to some local ecosystems.
Critics cited that the company adopted a one-size-fits-all approach. The seed mixes were not region-specific, which means that some of the wildflowers can be potentially invasive to certain areas.
Different regions in the country have different ways of reacting to different flowers. The Forget-Me-Not, which is among the flower seeds given away, for instance, is banned in Massachusetts, where it is considered a noxious weed. Another flower seed, the California poppy, is considered an invasive plant in the southeastern states.
Ecologist Kathryn Turner, who specializes in invasive plants, was among those concerned about the campaign.
"No plant is inherently 'bad', but many species can and have caused a great deal of damage when they are introduced into locations outside of their native range," Turner said.
Turner explained that invasive species of plants can outcompete the native species that they encounter by taking up all the spaces and using all the resources. They also spread disease and cause physical changes that can have unwanted effects on the native species and even on humans.
Some of the seeds Cheerios distributed were not even native to the United States so these may not even be helpful for the bees.
In response to issues that its campaign may pose threats to some ecosystems, Cheerios said that the seed varieties included in the mix were not invasive.
"The flower varieties within the 'Bee Friendlier Mix' were selected for their flowers which produce nectar and pollen that are attractive to bees and other pollinators. The mixture contains annuals, biennials, and perennials that produce flowers throughout the entire growing season (early, mid, and late) in a wide range of colors," Cheerios said.
Declining Bee Populations
The population of bees have significantly dropped over the past years due to a range of factors such as diseases, climate change, and use of pesticides. Scientists have been developing technologies that may do the work of the insects such as pollinating drones but these do not defeat the bees as expert pollinators.
The role of the insects in crop production and food security underlines the need to save them. The Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association (PSBA) said that a third of the food that humans consume are from insect-pollinated plants and 80 percent of insect pollinations are done by honeybees.
Saving the bees does not just involve planting flowers though. Bee experts said that doing away with use of pesticides can also help save the pollinators. Seventy percent of all bee species also nest underground so experts recommend leaving patches of bare soil without mulch to help underground bee nesters.