Project Apis m.’s primary mission has been to fund and direct research to help honey bees, but as we expand our forage programs, including Seeds for Bees in California and The Bee and Butterfly Fund in the Upper Midwest, there is a whole new body of interests to understand. The recent campaign from General Mills, where Buzz the honey bee disappeared from the Cheerios box, has gotten a lot of attention--both praise and criticism. Not only did they quickly ‘sell out’ of all the free seed packets that were offered, but there was equally swift backlash criticizing the effort for the seeds chosen. As we engage to replace critical habitat which has been lost for honey bees, below the surface of that good deed are interests that may seem at odds, and may confuse most audiences seeking to help the situation. As I discussed this issue with the Director of Habitat Partnerships from Pheasants Forever, Pete Berthelsen, he provided the following explanation from his years of service building habitat:
The use of “Invasive” or “Introduced” plants in seeding mixtures to benefit pollinators has been a hot topic the past month or so. This is an interesting and important discussion and it’s exciting to see the enthusiasm around the topic of planting pollinator habitat. But like most complicated issues, there are many aspects to this story that we need to consider carefully. Here are five points to consider when deciding whether “introduced” plants are friend or foe.
(Pete Berthelson, Director of Habitat Partnerships
from Pheasants Forever)
Just like the ‘Flow Hive’ generated lots and lots of media attention, dollars raised, Facebook posts, enthusiasm, etc., it was a far more complicated issue than the message on the surface would have the public believe. The issue of introduced plants vs. native plants is just as complicated. Here are a few points that need to be understood and considered about Introduced plants in pollinator plantings:
The bottom line is that this is a complex topic without a simple answer or response. We need to be thoughtful and careful about how this message is relayed to the public that is enthusiastically wanting to help the bees and butterflies! I hope these five points will help inform habitat enthusiasts as they encounter these debates.
By Danielle Downey with Pete Berthelsen
Danielle Downey is the Executive Director for Project Apis m. She has been working with honey bees and the parasites that plague them for over 20 years.