Cheerios’ Bring Back the Bees Campaign Helping or Harming Endangered Bees?


Ashley Edgell | Society Staff Writer |

Bees have recently made their first appearance on the endangered species list. According to Time, 80 percent of our food relies on pollination at some point in its life cycle. This decline in the presence of bees is related to several factors: loss of habitat, the spread of parasites and small population. How quickly the bee colonies are decreasing concerns scientists, and according to the latest results of a nationwide survey, beekeepers lost 44 percent of their honey bee colonies between 2015 and 2016. Fortunately, Honey Nut Cheerios may have come up with a solution to try and preserve the life of the bees.

Cheerios announced their “Bring Back the Bees” campaign, which consists of the company sending free flower seeds for people to plant, which specifically attract bees. General Mills partnered with Veseys Seeds, a Canadian seed company, in order to make this effort possible.

European honey bee extracts nectar. Via Wikipedia Commons.

Along with giving the seeds away, the Honey Nut Cheerios mascot, Buzz the Bee, has temporarily been removed from cereal boxes for six weeks to raise awareness for the declining bee population. Also, the statement #Bringbackthebees will be printed on every box. “People need bees. And now bees need people,” Cheerios said.

The company set a goal of 100 million seeds to give away, and their expectations were exceeded when they ended up giving away a total of 1.5 billion seeds. The company posted this infographic to their website releasing where the seeds were planted:

However, Cheerios’ plan might be harmful to the bees and to the environment. According to Lifehacker, it turns out the seeds General Mills were handing out included forget-me-nots, which are banned in Connecticut and Massachusetts as a noxious weed, and California poppy seeds, which are listed as an invasive exotic pest in the southeast. Kathryn Turner, an ecologist who specializes in invasive plants, told Lifehacker that some seeds could cause severe damage when they are planted in locations outside of their native range. They can start taking up all the space of native plants, spread diseases or cause other physical changes to the surrounding environment. Although several of the plants on the list are nonnative, Turner says, “That doesn’t mean it will be a problem, but it’s a significant risk.”

When complaints started showing up on Cheerios’ Facebook page, they released a statement in hopes to put ease to the seed hysteria. “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 seed variations in the mix are not considered invasive,” Cheerios stated. Company spokesman Mike Siemienas said, “The Honey Nut Cheerios wildflower packets contain the same varieties of seeds that consumers will find in seed racks at major national home store chains throughout the U.S.”

Giving away seeds isn’t the only thing the company plans on doing to help save the bees. Mike Siemienas also shared that the company has been working with the Xerces Society for the past five years and has invested $4 million on behalf of pollinators such as butterflies and bees. General Mills announced that Honey Nut Cheerios plans to plant more than 3,000 acres of bee habitats on oat farms by 2020.

To help scientist gather data on the population and geography of bees, Bumble Bee Watch allows anyone to easily report a bee sighting in their area. To anyone looking for a way to save the bees, The National Wildlife Federation recommends planting native, pollen-producing flowers in your garden and avoiding pesticides all together. The company released the following statement: “Planting wildflowers is recommended by conservationists as one of the best ways to support pollinators. It’s a fun, simple way to help.” If concerned about buying the right seeds, make sure to buy them from your local store.