General Mills’ pledge to counteract the world’s bee crisis with wildflowers

The disappearance of General Mills' Buzzbee on the Honey Nut Cheerios box has certainly prompted consumers to get involved in saving the depleting bee population. Pic: General Mills

The Annie’s and Nature Valley maker has been selling its Honey Nut Cheerios’ boxes throughout the US this spring without the recognizable mascot.

That’s because BuzzBee is taking a break.

Not because the iconic spokesbee is on holiday, but General Mills is using the departure to convey an important message – that there’s something serious going on with the world’s pollinators.

According to Greenpeace, bees have been disappearing by the millions, putting into jeopardy more than two thirds of the world’s crops used to feed people. This, said the conservationist group, accounts for 90% of the world’s nutrition.

The depletion of the pollinators

The bee population has suffered in the past decade because more than nine million acres of grass and prairie land have been converted into crops, according to the USDA Farm Service Agency. The extensive use of pesticides and the spread of parasites has also caused devastation.

Approximately 30% of the ingredients in General Mills’ products rely on pollination, including Cheerios, Muir Glen, Cascadian, Annie’s and LÄRABAR.

As such, the maker of the O-shaped oat cereal launched the #BringBackTheBees campaign to encourage people to plant wildflower seeds in their backyards to provide more nectar and pollen for bumblebees and honeybees.

Susanne Prucha, director of marketing for Cheerios said in a statement, “As [our cereals are] built around nutrition, helping pollinators get the key nutrition they need through activities like planting wildflowers is a natural fit.”

The campaign received an overwhelming response.

The cereal giant initially said it would be teaming with Vesey’s Seeds to hand out 100 million wildflower seeds, but instead gave away 1.5 billion seeds in the first week.

On March 17, General Mills announced that “the campaign not only reached its goal, but surpassed it.”

Bringing back semblance to nature

To restore semblance to the bees’ natural habitat, the $16.6bn cereal company has invested more than $4m since 2011 in the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service so it and pollinator conservation group Xerces Society can provide technical help US farmers restore pollinator habitat.

To further its commitment, General Mills has pledged that, by the end of 2020, its oats suppliers will dedicate approximately 3,300 of their 60,000 acres exclusively to pollinator habitat.

Previously plantings have seen the bee population doubling in areas where pollinator habitat plantings have taken place on General Mills’ supplier farms in the US.

The Minneapolis-headquartered cereal company is hoping this effort will ensure that BuzzBee will be back on its box by the end of spring.

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