Celebrating bees during National Pollinator Week
This week is National Pollinator Week.
Why celebrate bees? There are many reasons!
Bees and other native pollinators play an essential role in agriculture – 35 percent of crop production worldwide depends on pollinators helping plants produce fruits and seeds. And, bees contribute to many of General Mills’ delicious products including Honey Nut Cheerios cereal and Nature Valley granola bars.
The entire food industry depends on a healthy and abundant bee population and sadly, nearly 30 percent of honeybees die every year due to multiple causes, including diseases and parasites, pesticides and lack of flowers to support bee nutrition.
Keeping bees healthy is a priority for General Mills which is why we proactively fund pollinator research to better understand why bees are in decline, invest to conserve and expand bee habitats and work with our suppliers to improve the health and effectiveness of bees.
Last week, I had a chance to spend the day with Dr. Marla Spivak and her students from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Spivak is a distinguished professor at the University of Minnesota who is at the forefront of the important work of studying honey bees and native bees.
She and her students visited General Mills’ agricultural research farm in Le Sueur, Minn., to collect data from the 13 honeybee colonies we’ve established to investigate how providing good floral nutrition can improve bee health. University of Minnesota and General Mills researchers collect data from the site on a regular basis to monitor bee health, determine which flowers the bees are using as food plants, and monitor their honey production.
Our partnership with the U of M is part of a four-year research effort to better understand bee habitats. Researchers will collect data at our site through 2015, and then share the results with others in the scientific community to help reduce the collapse of bee colonies.
We also have other efforts underway around the country to protect pollinators:
* Together with the Xerces Society, we planted native plants alongside several of our tomato fields in California to serve as a new habitat for bumblebees, increase the sustainability of tomato production and provide education to growers.
* We are also working with Xerces to plant flowering hedgerows, native wildflower meadows and flowering groundcover surrounding 700 acres of almond orchards in California, to produce more sustainably grown almonds.
* We have provided a grant to Conservation Marketplace to increase bee habitat on more than 10 Minnesota farms. The grants are “seed money” to establish prairie plantings that will attract native pollinators.
* We recently funded two new projects with Dr. Spivak to understand how nutrition affects bee immune systems, and novel, non-chemical ways for beekeepers to control the parasitic mites that attack the bees.
“When I think about General Mills I think about good nutrition,” said Dr. Spivak. “People need healthy food, and so do bees. It is a natural fit for General Mills to support research on bees and other pollinators. The support the Bee Lab at the University of Minnesota receives from General Mills will have a big impact on bee health, which in turn will have a big impact on human health nutrition through the pollination services of bees. It’s a win-win relationship for everyone.”
What can consumers do to make an impact? Dr. Spivak says everyone can help bees. One way to do this is by planting bee-friendly flowers.
To learn more about how General Mills is increasing biodiversity and improving pollinator health, see our 2014 Global Responsibility Report.