Bee pollination is tied to almost 33 percent of all American crops, but the bee population has drastically declined in recent years. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 42 percent of bee colonies collapsed in 2015 alone. But San Francisco startup Seedles intends to do something about it by planting one billion wildflowers.
Seedles sells seed bombs and wildflower seed balls that are ready to grow in just about any environment. The balls are comprised of wildflower seeds, clay, and compost, and are certified non-GMO and native. Their seed bombs are made specific to each region, so no matter where you live, flower power can find you (and hopefully, attract the bees).
Seedles is already 35 million wildflowers strong. The company offers seed bombs starting at $1, with kits comprising everything you need to plant an entire wildflower garden for $9. Users can choose from Texas Bluebonnets, Blue Flax, California Poppies, herbs, and more, but the colorful product begs the question, “Is this really going to help the bees?”
According to NRDC Senior Scientist Jennifer Sass, bee colony collapse is caused by four major factors: the use of pesticides, loss of habitat, climate change, and disease. While disease and pesticides have always impacted bee populations, the development of neonicotinoids have single-handedly led to the greatest decline in bee population ever recorded.
Neonicotinoids damage the nervous systems of bees, affect their ability to forage and fly, and in high levels can kill bees instantly. In a study conducted by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, researchers found 70 percent of pollen and honey from local bee populations contained levels of neonicotinoids high enough to have detrimental health effects on the bee populations. With this, most plants (pdf) sold at major garden stores are pre-sprayed with the pesticide.
Some places are starting to mark plants sprayed with neonicotinoids. However planting native wildflowers can help revive the bee population, and it can do it in a matter of days. With more flowers, they have an expanded habitat. With an expanded habitat, the bee population can grow by having access to more food of their choice. The seed bombs by Seedles are, of course, not sprayed with neonicotinoids. Over time, if one billion non-harmful wildflowers are planted across the country, a positive impact on local bee populations is expected. But more must be done.
If bee populations are decreasing at the rates some researchers project, the result could mean a significant decrease in U.S. crop yields for some of our favorite foods, including coffee and apples. As a consumer, you can help repopulate the bees by planting flora in your garden that does not contain neonicotinoids. You can ask local garden stores if the plants were pre-sprayed, and if so, with what, before purchasing.
The bigger issue is the use of neonicotinoids altogether. According to a recent article, the pesticide has shown limited proof that it actually improves crop yields against insects, but it does lead to irreversible damage to bee colonies. If you’re passionate about protecting the bees, pressure local legislators to ban the use of neonicotinoids, and refrain from purchasing any products that used the pesticide, if you can avoid it.
We have power in numbers. The more we change our purchasing habits, the more we can pressure Big Agriculture into doing what’s best for the preservation of the planet.
If you’re interested in planting some wildflowers no matter where you live, you can see what Seedles is doing and snag some Seed Bombs here.