How To Help Native Bees Outside of Free Wildflower Seeds

How To Help Native Bees Outside of Free Wildflower Seeds

Insects completely fascinate me. Where others find creepiness, I find beauty. Everyone is so quick write off insects without second guessing killing them but they hold such a crucial role in our ecosystem. Some insects help keep their fellow population down and lessen the amount of weeds we have. Some are the food source for other mammals, amphibians, birds, etc. It would be a loss of certain creatures without the availability of insects. Insects also help pollinate our flowers, vegetables, and fruits - things we would lose without the hard work of insects. They are also a delicacy in certain parts of the world due to their rich source of nutrients. 

Insects are brilliant little creatures so I sound like a bitter bee when it comes to this campaign but seeing bees exploited for a very ingenious marketing campaign is upsetting. I understand the positives (shedding light upon the loss of bees + potential seeds being planted). However, how many more bees will die due to production within General Mills? How many people will receive free seeds and have them go to waste? I have an exceptionally long list of questions and concerns that put me off from this campaign.

The Irony

Killing Off Bees 

Insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, nematicides, and miticides are all harmful to pollinators. I e-mailed General Mills to ask what is used on their crops and did not answer my inquiries. However, it is known they use pesticides on their crops. Neonicotinoids are one of the highest risk for the bee population. We can only imagine the amount of crops produced yearly, for each and every product of General Mills, that has been toxic to the bee population and continues to be toxic while promoting this campaign. Cheerios has been found with glyphosate which has been known to effect the navigation of bees. They also partner with Nestle which doesn't care about humans, let alone insects. 

Decline of Revenue

General Mills' revenue fell, sales tumbled, and the downward slope is expected to continue. This is a brilliant marketing scheme in order to help increase sales. 

Nutrition Value

Trisodium phosphate which is in Cheerios cereal should be avoided in all contact according to the PAN pesticides database. In R Food also states:

The FDA claims that Trisodium phosphate in certain amounts is not a risk in food, but some reports and agencies have deemed it a hazardous substance. The Clean Water Act has taken steps to limit the use of TSP in cleaning supplies because it damages the environment. Phosphates are required of the human body, however trisodium phosphate is an inorganic chemical phosphate. There are other organic sources of necessary phosphates that are proven to be safe and beneficial for consumption.

TSP has not been proven to be toxic to humans as a food additive, but has shown to be severely irritating to the gastric mucosa unless part of a buffered solution. Trisodium phosphate may reduce accumulation of lactic acid in muscles. Excess intake of TSP may produce an imbalance of minerals that lead to loss of calcium from bone and a calcification of the kidneys. The daily limit of trisodium phosphate is recommended to be 70mg. TSP consumed as part of a Western junk food diet sometimes reaches upwards of 500mg, which leads to an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.

In my e-mail to General Mills, I also inquired about their honey. I inquired whether it was raw honey, I inquired whether it was honey flavored or a mix of real honey and a fake honey, I inquired whether or not it was heated at all during the process of creating Honey Nut Cheerios (if heated, nutritional value is lost), I inquired where the honey comes from (inside the US or outside the US) or where the bees come from. Unsurprisingly, none of my questions were answered and I was merely told I could no longer receive seeds (even though I never hinted at wanting any). 

The Positives

Bring Awareness

This campaign has people discussing. Lest it be questioning the motives of the company or sharing excitement for free seeds. Hopefully the discussion doesn't stop here or continue with Cheerios alone. There are ample resources to help us continue to bring awareness to the pollinator crisis. 

Planted Flowers

Flowers are being planted and will bring food to pollinators. 

Sustainability

It does appear General Mills is working hard for sustainability considering as their company relies heavily on pollinators. 

The Negatives

Seeds May Not Be Planted

People love freebies. That's also why this campaign is a great marketing gimmick. Before finding minimalism and zero-waste, I would occasionally sign up for freebies -- only to have the freebie arrive and have me never use it. Many people will receive these seeds and never plant them. Or plant them and then forget to take care of them or improperly care for them.

These seeds are non-organic

General Mills has stated these seeds are non-organic

Vesey's has ties to Monsanto

They receive seeds from the Monsanto-owned company Semini's.

Invasive Plants Can Harm Habitats for Native Bees

We have to be weary of what we are planting within our area and how it effects the native surroundings. In this study, a foreign plant was removed and pollinators began to flourish. In this study, a diverse and abundant amount of butterflies thrived with native plants.

Some non-native plants also attract pollinators away from native species that are superior food sources. West Virginia white butterflies sometimes lay their eggs on non-native garlic mustard instead of native toothwort, for example, and the young caterpillars fail to thrive. In other instances, non-native species can compete with native plants or animals for resources—in fact, in some habitats European honey bees have been shown to compete with native bees for pollen and nectar.
— Great Pollinator Project

What You Can Also Do

Buy Local Honey

Local honey helps local beekeepers. Not only do you receive actual honey (instead of corn syrup and flavor), but you also have more transparency about the product.

Adopt A Hive

Although honey bees are not the bees in dire need of saving, they can still use your help and support. Adopting a hive is a great way to ensure bees are being taken care of by supporting beekeepers and your own hive. 

Build a Bee Hotel

A bee hotel is a great way to create a home and place of residence for bees. Hotels allow them choice and allow them to nest where they see fit. You can also make a smaller version if you have less space.

Buy Native Plants

Exotic is nice but buying plants native to your area is exceptional food for pollinators. This app is a comprehensive guide to what plants will help pollinators thrive in your location!

Less Chemicals

Pesticides are killing our native bees. If you have a yard service or grow your own garden, make sure you are researching what goes into it to avoid hazards into the bee population. Try natural or organic alternatives when you can. 

Don't Mow Your Lawn

Bees love lawns because weeds contain pollen and nectar, two food sources for bees. Here are other things you can add to your lawn to support pollinators. 

Save the Queen

Bumblebees are crucial, native bees. Shrubs, trees, and spring-blooming flowers are necessary for a re-emerging queen. Queen bees are born in fall, they breed, and then hibernate in the winter. When they awake again in Spring, it's important they have nectar and pollen to feed on in order to start their colonies. 

Conservation Group

Volunteer at your local conservation group and get involved. This will help you find resources and other ways to sustain the habitats for plants, animals, and insects. 

Get Involved With Organizations & Campaigns

Learn more about organizations and programs that support pollinators and want to keep them and their habitat safe. Pollinator Partnership is a huge one. Monarch Larva Monitoring Project and The Great Sunflower Project are two great citizen-science programs. There is also the Center for Honeybee Research. India also has a sanctuary for seeds that attract pollinators. Greenpeace has a Save the Bees campaign. Local beekeepers from Oklahoma and Arkansas created a campaign to encourage healthy habitats for honey bees.

Buy Local Produce When Able

This isn't always a possibility for people. Prices can be higher or local produce just isn't nearby. Local produce allows you transparency and allows you to know your source is reputable. You are able to engage in conversations and often visit the location of your food. You can also ask what they do to help conserve the bee population.

Keep in mind that I have only, for the most part, focused on Cheerios but this is a potentially a deadly web for bees. This campaign allows for people to feel as though they are helping while General Mills can profit off of people by appearing to be a positive, caring company and continue their path of pollinator destruction. Cheerios isn't the only thing General Mills creates and there are numerous products that have the potential to harm the population of pollinators and human health alike. 

We need pollinators to thrive and it is important to keep their population healthy as much as we can. Insects remind us that no matter how small, you can make a huge impact.