On Being a Buzz-Kill

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When bees are in the headlines, I hear about it from my friends and people I know. Last week, a lot of people got really excited about this headline: Cheerios is giving away free wildflower seeds to raise awareness about the declining bee population. Their famous bee mascot even took a hiatus from the brand's cereal boxes.  

While I appreciate any large corporation using their platform to raise awareness about honeybee decline, their efforts were at best tone deaf and at worst dangerous for the ecosystem. Many of the flowers included in the mix are not that great for bees, and some of the varieties are actually noxious invasives that are banned in certain states. For example, the California poppy is listed as an “invasive exotic pest plant” in southeastern states. Not to mention the nasty chemicals used to grow the ingredients in the cereal products Cheerios sells - but that's a whole other story.   

The truth is, planting flowers really is the best way to help the bees. Just like our food, it's important to read the labels and do your research when you're choosing seeds and plants to put in your garden. It doesn't need to be a "Save the Bees" flower mix. Bees love sunflowers, bolted (flowered) herbs like basil and chives, borage (an edible flower), the list goes on and on. Just make sure your seeds are non-GMO and not treated with any pesticides or chemicals. 

Fourth-grade bee supporters on Earth Day in 2015 at the Arts Garden in Indianapolis.

Fourth-grade bee supporters on Earth Day in 2015 at the Arts Garden in Indianapolis.

  • If you really want to get your hands on a bee-friendly seed mix, here are a few options: run to a local garden center (my personal favorite is The Garden Center at 71 & Michigan Rd. in Indianapolis) and pick up a package of non-GMO, organic flower seeds. It'll be the best $1.50 you ever spent.
  • Find a native seed mix for your region on the Xerces website
  • Or, if you're in the Indianapolis area, Bee Public will be handing out organic, non-GMO "Autumn Beauty" sunflower seed mixes at Earth Day Indiana Festival on April 22.