KUSA - The bee population in the U.S. is dying. Just last year, the country lost 44 percent of its bees.
The company gave away 1.5 billion wildflower seeds for people to plant in bee-friendly areas to help save the bees.
An ecologist at Colorado State University says the seed packets Cheerios handed out actually contain seeds for plants 'not native' to some areas of the country where they are being distributed.
"Non-native species are a risk. Every time we introduce them, we are taking the risk that sometime in the future they may become invasive, or a problem, and they may cause damage to the ecosystem," Kathryn Turner said, a postdoctoral fellow at CSU. "This isn't true of every single species, but it is really hard for us to guess which ones will cause problems in the future."
Turner says the non-native plants may be good for European bees, but they are not necessarily going to help North American bees, which are the ones that need the most support.
"We need to think about which bees that need the most help," she said. "In the short term, planting non-native plants would help European honey bees more than it would help native bees and so they might create greater competition between European honey bees and and that would be ultimately bad for the native bees."
Turner says Cheerios was making a good effort, but says the campaign would have been better if seeds for plants native to North America were given away, or seeds for plants that are regionally specific.
General Mills, the parent company to Cheerios, said it is also making other efforts to save the bees.
It plans to plant more than 3,000 acres of bee habitat on oat farms by 2020.
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