A new Cheerios campaign is drawing attention to the declining bee population, but experts suggest you should think twice before scattering seeds.
Cheerios manufacturer General Mills gave away 1.5 billion wildflower seeds to encourage consumers to plant food for the pollinators. The #BringBacktheBees campaign went over so well, in just 7 days Cheerios exceeded their goal of distributing 100 million seeds 10 times over.
But, experts at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture urge consumers to use caution before scattering the Cheerios seeds just anywhere.
“That whole thing is actually an excellent idea, but they do have to be careful about what plants the put in the mix," said John Skinner, a professor in the department of etymology and plant pathology.
Most experts agree planting more flowers is always helpful for bee populations, but in some cases, spreading random seeds can do more harm than good.
"This isn't something you should go spread along the roadside. I think that can be pretty irresponsible," said James Newburn, assistant director of the University of Tennessee gardens.
“What's a native plant in one area might not be native to another area and what's invasive in one location may not be appropriate to put in a seed packet," Skinner agreed.
After reviewing the list of 19 wildflower species included in the Cheerios packet, Newburn said at least 3 raised some concern. Forget-me-not flowers, for example, have the potential to become invasive.
Newburn said the key is to keep the wildflowers contained by planting them in a home garden versus scattering the seeds in your backyard. He added, it is always a good idea to know what you are planting.
"People can take responsibility utilizing our local sources, whether it be our local native plant nurseries, our local garden centers that are more familiar with wildflowers that are native to this area and that our suitable for our region," Newburn said.
You can find a list of plants invasive to our area on the Tennessee Invasive Species Council website. Newburn said your best bet may be contacting a local nursery for information on what bee-friendly species to plant.