Helping the bees that help Muir Glen

January 23, 2014 | Permalink

Original Post by Monte Olmsted, featured on Taste of General Mills

Bees are important to us – and not just BuzzBee, the “spokes bee” for Honey Nut Cheerios.

Bees pollinate Green Giant broccoli and cauliflower, fruit for Häagen-Dazs ice cream and Yoplait yogurt, and they provide honey for Honey Nut Cheerios and Nature Valley granola bars. So we’re working to restore bee populations across the U.S.

“General Mills has been aware of the decline in native bees and honey bees due to diseases and viruses, as well as the decline in their habitat,” says Tom Rabaey, principal scientist in crop biosciences at General Mills. “That’s why we’ve been working on bee projects for three years.”
 
A few of the projects we’re working on include:
  •  Planting native plants next to several California Muir Glen tomato fields to serve as new habitat for bumblebees.
  •  Planting native plants next to our test farm in Le Sueur, Minn.
  • A grant to Conservation Marketplace of Minnesota by the General Mills Foundation to increase bee habitat on 10 more Minnesota farms.
  •  A 700-acre almond orchard in California to produce “bee-friendly almonds,” funded through a grant from Small Planet Foods and General Mills.
 
In California, General Mills has teamed with researches from the University of California-Davis and the Xerces Society, an organization devoted to protecting wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates (such as bees) and their habitats.
 
Not only is a growth in native habitat good for bees, it’s good for farmers too.
 
“We know that bumblebees are important for tomato pollination, so having pollinator habitat adjacent to the (Muir Glen) field in California can lead to a five percent increase in tomato yield,” Tom says.
 
 
Studies have also shown that tomatoes pollinated by native bees produce larger and more fruit. With time, research and results on its side, Muir Glen hopes to convince other farmers to participate by having native wildflowers planted next to their fields too.
 
As the project progresses, General Mills will share our findings with all farmers, included those who grow for competitors so everyone will benefit – but especially the bees.

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