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Rainey writes: "Bees are dying globally at an alarming rate, and last week, Cheerios figured it would step in and help. There was just one tiny problem: It gave away wildflowers that can grow into bad news for certain recipients' local ecosystems."

Cheerios' 'Bring Back the Bees' campaign. (photo: General Mills/Twitter)
Cheerios' 'Bring Back the Bees' campaign. (photo: General Mills/Twitter)


Cheerios Gave Away a Bunch of Invasive 'Bee-Friendly' Wildflower Seeds

By Clint Rainey, Grub Street

20 March 17

 

ees are dying globally at an alarming rate, and last week, Cheerios figured it would step in and help. The cereal brand, whose mascot — after all — is a honeybee, announced it would mail out free wildflower seeds as part of a “Save the Bees” campaign to provide more nectar for the struggling pollinator. By Friday, just one week in, it had given away 1.5 billion of them — ten times more than the original goal and, as it later explained in a blog post, enough to deplete General Mills’ entire supply.

There was just one tiny problem: It picked wildflowers that can grow into bad news for certain recipients’ local ecosystems. Rather than ship each person a seed pack custom-tailored to their region, which would have been a ton of work, Cheerios used a generic mix — forget-me-nots, poppies, daisies, lavender, hyssop, and about a dozen others. But, as Lifehacker realized, many of them aren’t native to any part of America. Worse, Massachusetts and Connecticut ban forget-me-nots, and poppies are considered an “invasive exotic pest” in the southeast. As an ecologist explains, plant those in the wrong area, and they can “take up all the space and use up all the resources,” or even “spread disease” that could be detrimental to both plants and humans alike.

To show the campaign’s enormous reach, Cheerios’s #BringBacktheBees site offers a handy map that logs where it sent every pack, and the southeast and New England in particular are just jam-packed with dots. Over the weekend, the company jumped into defense mode, telling critics on social media that while they “appreciate” those concerns, there’s no need for worry because the seeds were chosen specifically to attract “bees” (listed as though they’re one generic entity) and “are not considered invasive” — which, at least according to the USDA, doesn’t appear to be true at all.

Bee experts are also pointing out to Cheerios that “context is important,” and what’s good for honeybees isn’t necessarily good for native bumblebees and other species, or vice versa. A third group angry about the seeds, meanwhile, is blasting General Mills for trying to #BringBacktheBees when lab tests have shown that the oats it uses in Cheerios contain traces of Monsanto’s Roundup, an herbicide tied to colony-collapse disorder that might also be giving everybody cancer.


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-7 # orangehen 2017-03-21 07:01
Oh for god's sake, I agree with Cheerios. ANY flower is better than NO flowers for bees! Why pick apart something that is actually trying to HELP?
And who made these arbitrary "rules" that some flowers are "harmful", for god's sake?? Not Nature! Why in the world would any state BAN a flower like forget-me-not? What could that flower possibly "do" to that state that would merit a BAN? This article is stupid!
 
 
+6 # SusanT136 2017-03-21 08:49
Quoting orangehen:
Oh for god's sake, I agree with Cheerios. ANY flower is better than NO flowers for bees! Why pick apart something that is actually trying to HELP?
And who made these arbitrary "rules" that some flowers are "harmful", for god's sake?? Not Nature! Why in the world would any state BAN a flower like forget-me-not? What could that flower possibly "do" to that state that would merit a BAN? This article is stupid!


You would do well to read up on what is meant by "invasive". Invasive plants can dominate an ecosystem, crowding out the native plants and often changing that ecosystem for the worse. Invasive plants can also spread disease. Native plants develop as part of a complex "web" that supports a healthy ecosystem, i.e. clean water, good soil, proper food for insects and animals.

If bee experts are saying that one size doesn't fit all in terms of this seed mix being good for all bees in all regions, maybe you should listen.
 
 
-1 # Glen 2017-03-21 16:03
orangehen, you have a point. The invasion of certain plants are not going to be rampant and wreck a local environment. We aren't talking about kudzu here, or wild grapes or the like. Any flower plant can be controlled if getting out of hand, immediately, if planted in someone's yard. Poppies are slow to spread, etc. but are beautiful. There are numerous wild flowers that assist pollinators that some folks would consider undesirable. Why is it there is always a downside to any effort?

Folks would do well by researching, on their own, each of these flowers. They aren't after all going to be spread by a small plane over hill and dale.
 
 
+2 # chrisconnolly 2017-03-21 11:48
I'd say the ignorance of #orangehen is representative of how little most people understand the dynamics of ecology. Thanks in no small part to school districts being lobbied by their local industries as well as the multinationals to not teach environmental science. Our local sawmill did this with the resulting cancelation of all environmental education in that district. Too political was their argument. Environmental science is extremely complicated and easily subverted by ignorance. Our policies tend to over simplify the mechanisms, like the way we log off a tract, then skin all life off, sometimes as many as 150 species, so we can then build houses and landscape with 3 or 4 species. Between the humans, their pets and their plants, successfully narrowing it down to maybe 10 species. Repeat this enough times and you get eco-system collapse. Water no longer soaks in to recharge ground water and aquifers causing flooding to become more common, hillsides no longer hold firm, unwanted species move in so we use chemicals to control the undesirables. We are blindly assaulting our life giving environment from every possible direction, rendering too many keystone species increasingly fragile. Losing our bee species will prove especially detrimental. Employing educated care in addressing the issue is integral to our survival.
 
 
-4 # JayaVII 2017-03-21 12:07
I basically agree with orangehen. There is a kind of nutty purism behind many of these campaigns against "invaders."

Take a look at this brilliant Harper's Magazine piece by Andrew Cockburn:

http://harpers.org/archive/2015/09/weed-whackers/
 
 
-1 # economagic 2017-03-21 16:23
Mr. Cockburn is writing as an authority on a topic which he clearly knows little if anything about, not for the first time, and using "red-herring" arguments (arguments based on irrelevant information, e.g., the camel and the redwood).
 
 
0 # SusanT136 2017-03-22 08:37
I agree, economagic! The Harper's article oversimplifies the anti-invasive movement, lumping the movement into one monolithic category of "purists". Yes, if you go back far enough, you would find that almost all life on this planet could be considered "invasive". So what does that have to do with the degradation of conditions for sustaining life on this planet NOW? Don't forget, the 1930's Dust Bowl was essentially created by a combination of poor agricultural practices (depleting the soil) and drought. We as a species have continually shown our ignorance of how the "web of life" interacts, with various flora, fauna, and conditions of the soil, water and air. Time to start paying attention. With climate change waiting in the wings, the need is urgent.

MOST people who want to support native species / suppress invasive do NOT support using RoundUp or other pesticides which will further harm the ecosystem. Mr. Cockburn is ridiculous to even imply that.

And ANYONE who cares about bees should know that neonicotinoids have been proven to harm bees, and should be making sure ONLY to buy flowering plants that have been grown without it. Even seeds can have contaminants; does Cheerios guarantee that this wildflower mix is organic, or have the "parent" plants been treated with pesticides?
 
 
+1 # Glen 2017-03-22 12:07
Once again, the key is human interference and growing population. Human beings have made the decision to cast judgement on too many plants and animals simply because those humans have taken over the territory and don't want to lose control of what is now THEIR territory. There are hundreds of other invasive species that are much worse than flowers.
 

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