Cheerios pulled its mascot, Buzz the Bee, from the front of its Honey Nut Cheerios boxes and sent out free wildflower seeds to people across the U.S. and Canada in an effort to raise awareness about the declining bee population across North America.
Bees are responsible for pollinating about 35 percent of the world's food supply and for the first time this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service declared a bee species endangered, CNN reports.
"Buzz is missing because there's something serious going on with the world's bees. Bee populations everywhere have been declining at an alarming rate, and that includes honeybees like Buzz," Cheerios said on its website.Cheerios then launched a campaign to #BringBacktheBees by sending 1.5 billion wildflower seeds to people so they can plant them, creating more bee-friendly habitats. The new flowers are meant to provide nectar and pollen for the bees.
Some bee experts like Gordon Frankie, an entomology professor at University of California, Berkeley, have applauded the effort.
"I think that any time we can throw out some seeds for flowering plants that bees like, we should do it," Frankie told the myth-busting website Snopes. “Bees need all the help they can get.”
On the other hand, some critics have argued that dumping just any flower in your garden could do more harm than good. Lifehacker explains that each region of the country reacts to different flowers in its own way and some of the seeds Cheerios is giving out are considered invasive species in certain areas.
"Invasive species can out-compete the natives they encounter, they can take up all the space and use up all the resources, they can spread disease, and cause other physical changes to their new homes, all of which can have detrimental effects on native species, and on humans," ecologist Kathryn Turner told Lifehacker.
Cheerios responded to critics on Facebook, saying that the seed varieties in its "Bee Friendlier Mix" are not considered invasive.
"The flower varieties within the 'Bee Friendlier Mix' were selected for their flowers which produce nectar and pollen that are attractive to bees and other pollinators," Cheerios responded to concerned consumers on Facebook.
The National Wildlife Federation recommends planting pollen-producing flowers native to your area as well as avoiding insecticides and herbicides.