Don’t Plant Those Bee-Friendly Wildflowers That Cheerios Distributes

Bee populations are declining and Cheerios wants to help. So far, so good. But they send free packets of wildflower seeds to people all over the country, and some of the flowers included are invasive species that you probably should n’t plant in some areas.

Forget-me-not ( listed above, but as the seed packer told me on 3/21/2017 is not included in the seed mixture ) is banned as a poisonous weed, for example, in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The California poppy is good in California, but is listed as an “invasive exotic pest” in the southeastern states. And many of the flowers on this list are not native to the US, so they don’t necessarily suit our local bees.

I askedKatherine Turner , an invasive plant ecologist who is concerned about the Cheerios approach, how bad it can be to plant a flower. “Context is important,” she said:

No plant is inherently “bad,” but many species can and do a lot when they are introduced to areas outside of their natural range. Invasive species can compete with the locals they encounter, they can take up all space and use all resources, they can spread disease and cause other physical changes in their new homes, all of which can have detrimental effects on native species. , and in public. This does not happen with every plant and every place, and scientists (like me!) Are now working to figure out why this is the case, how to predict what will cause the problem, how to manage or prevent invasions.

I don’t mean to exaggerate: apart from this giveaway, Cheerios actually does something good for the bees. And even though seeds are problematic, they don’t quite deliver packages of environmental death. Hell, most of the seeds will probably languish in a box, not plant, or be thrown out into the street and neglected by brown fingers like me. But some of them in the wrong place may well provoke a new invasion or contribute to an already invasive population of harmful weeds.

Update: It turned out that there is more to this seed bag. We’re still following the guidelines in this post, but you probably want to read our next steps here:

Here are some of the best ways to help bees

The idea is well thought out, but one seed mixture cannot be expected to work for everyone in the backyard. The weird thing is that Cheerios partnered with Xerces , a pollinator support organization, but didn’t use their local organic seed mixtures. If you are looking to plant a wildflower garden, perhaps start with these.

I have reviewed all of the plants in the Xerses East Great Lakes mix (good for Indiana, Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and western New York) and they all grow in my area. Many of them are threatened with extinction, so planting them in these areas helps to restore their populations in areas where they may disappear.

Xerces also publishes regional gardening guides to help you choose the best plants to buy if you prefer a DIY approach. In the meantime, if you want to check the status of a random plant you brought home from your garden store, check the USDA PLANTS database . If your state is green, it means the plant is native. Click the Legal Status tab to see if a plant is on the federal or state Noxious Weed List.

But creating a bee-friendly habitat isn’t just about planting flowers. If you spray pesticides on or around flowers, bees are again in danger, so you need to know what you (or your lawnmower) are spraying. Xerses would like you to sign a pollinator oath in which I swear that you will cut insecticides and grow plants that feed bees and other pollinators (such as butterflies and their caterpillars) all year round.

Honey bees are not the bees most at risk

When you create your garden suitable for bees, make sure that the bees have room to lay their eggs in and around the ground. If that sounds a little odd, welcome to the biggest myth you’ll have to face as a self-styled bee savior: the bees that live in hives are not the ones we really care about.

So ditch the depiction of a sad beekeeper with crates and boxes of bee hives. The destruction of the colony was annoying, but not destructive . These bees are employees of large agribusiness, they have jobs and caretakers all over the world. Entomologist Gwen Pearson notes that honeybees “do not have a distant threat of extinction,” unlike thousands of lesser known bee species . You can see a list of our endangered bees here ; many of them are marked by “PE” as “possibly extinct”.

Many of these native bees live on their own rather than in colonies and lay their eggs in small tunnels in the ground. The mother gives each baby bee a loaf of “bee bread” made of pollen and nectar. Since they don’t have a colony to defend, these bees don’t even sting.

So if you want to save bees by planting flowers, you should dedicate your garden to them.

The habitat around farmland is very important and Cheerios plants them too

Ironically, oats, which includes a part of Cheerios , are wind pollinated , and the bees are not required. But all types of farming can threaten bees. Cropped fields are often treated with insecticides, which can harm bees, and herbicides, which kill the weeds on which bees depend.

So, while the wildflower giveaway has received a lot of likes and reposts (because who doesn’t like free stuff?), The more rewarding thing the company is doing is creating bee habitat around farmland. In fact, they have been doing this for a long time. Here’s what General Mills has to say at the end of the press release about its marketing campaign:

Last spring, Honey Nut Cheerios announced that by the end of 2020, nearly 3,300 acres of dedicated pollinator habitat will be allocated on 60,000 acres of Cheerios oat farms. Previous plantings of pollinator habitat on farms by General Mills suppliers indicate that each pollinator habitat is expected to double the number of bees in the area.

While their public website focuses more on how much the harvest depends on bees, the post has the facts. They point out that the main reason local pollinators are threatened is because cropland is taking away their habitat. And they understand the difference between bees who are in danger and bees who are guaranteed a job:

While Buzzby and his honeybee friends may not be in danger of extinction like some other pollinators, in the interest of protecting our food supplies, General Mills is committed to helping all pollinators thrive by planting in these habitats.

A similar wildflower planting campaign is behind the Burt’s Bees campaign. Sure, they want you to buy their limited edition lip balms and post their hashtag on social media, but behind the scenes they are investing in farm pollinator habitat in their home state of North Carolina .

So, even though distributing wildflower seeds is a bit of a flaw, the idea of ​​planting a garden for pollinators is a great idea, whether you are a farmer or just someone who has a piece of land to contribute to. case.

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