Despite last year's controversy, Cheerios offers cosmos seeds for 2018 #BringBacktheBees campaign

The original packet of seeds from Cheerios that I sent away for last year (left) and this year's packet found in marked boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios (right). 
Last year Cheerios launched a social media campaign – #BringBacktheBees – tied to helping bring attention to the declining numbers of honeybees. They removed their mascot Buzz from Honey Nut Cheerio boxes to draw attention to the plight and used the space to explain how bees are needed to pollinate crops.  

The main draw of the campaign was the ability to request a free packet of wildflower seeds online with the goal of creating a pollinator-friendly garden. The company gave away 1.5 billion wildflower seeds in 2017, surpassing the goal of 100 million.  

I also requested the seeds last year and they arrived quickly in the mail. But while the seeds were in transit, proponents of honeybees were quick to point out a flaw in the program. The seeds that people were able to request included a mix of varieties, but potentially included some seeds that could be considered invasive in certain states, such as California poppies in the southeast. (The main controversy centered around the assumption that invasive forget-me-not was included in the seed mixes, which turned out not to be true and is explained in a long article here.) Due to all the controversy at the time, I decided not to plant the seeds, but I did hold on to them. 

Most negative press and feedback would deter a company from pursuing the idea further, but I give Cheerios credit: they are back again this year, partnering with a new seed company (Page’s Seeds) and offering Cosmos ‘Sensation Mix’ (Cosmos bipinnatus) seeds in specially marked boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios.  

No more shipping seeds and no room for confusion. The seeds, according to the Cheerios website, are “suitable as a garden plant across the country. The seed mix will help to create new places for pollinators to thrive.” The site also includes an endorsement from the Xerces Society* that cosmos can be planted “without risk of becoming invasive.” It appears that the company has learned from last year’s fumble. 

When shopping at the grocery store last month, I noticed the Honey Nut Cheerios box display with the advertised seeds inside and purchased a box for our home, even though I usually don’t eat the cereal. Now I have two seed packets – the wildflower mix from last year and the cosmos seeds from this year – which I’m going to try growing in my garden this year.  

*Xerces Society has already helped Cheerios in reaching its 2020 goal of having its oat farms host about 3,300 acres of nectar- and pollen-rich wildflowers. 

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