Leave it to General Mills Canada and its Honey Nut Cheerios brand to get me all teary-eyed over colony collapse disorder.

The cereal giant, in an effort to raise awareness about the environmental threats facing bee populations, has launched a new campaign to remind customers just how important these pollinators are to life on Earth. Gone is the beloved honeybee mascot from the front of cereal boxes, replaced instead by an empty profile and an appeal to visit the campaign website and #BringBackTheBees.

And then there's this tear-jerking ad –– which is brilliant not only for its imagery of animals being saved, but its expert use of the 1985 pop hit "Broken Wings" from Mr. Mister. Well played, General Mills Canada.


"One-third of the foods we depend on for our survival are made possible by the natural pollination work that bees provide," Emma Eriksson, director of marketing for General Mills Canada, told AdWeek. "With ongoing losses in bee populations being reported across Canada, we wanted to leverage our packaging to draw attention to this important cause and issue a call to action to Canadians to help plant 35 million wildflowers — one for every person in Canada."

Canadian visitors to the campaign website can order a free packet of wildflower seeds from Vesey’s Seeds, courtesy of General Mills Canada. More than 25 million wildflower seeds already have been shipped to households for planting.

Perhaps the best thing about General Mills campaign is that it's addressing all bee populations and not just honeybees. Native bees, which compromise an astounding 4,000 species across North America, are disappearing just as quickly as honeybees. These bees are not only more efficient pollinators (91 percent, compared to honey bees at 72 percent), but are also more benign (read: less likely to sting) and are better suited for pollinating crops like tomatoes, squash, blueberries, alfalfa and much more. Like honeybees, they face threats from pesticides, habitat loss and other human-related impacts.

"An individual visit by a native bee is actually worth far more than an individual visit by a honeybee," Cornell entomology professor Bryan Danforth said in 2011. "Honeybees are more interested in the nectar. They don't really want the pollen if they can avoid it. The wild, native bees are mostly pollen collectors. They are collecting the pollen to take back to their nests."

In a news release for General Mills Canada, Marla Spivak, an entomologist at the University of Minnesota, said the planting of wildflowers can help replenish flora otherwise lost in urban environments.

“There are a range of threats to Canada’s bee population, but among the biggest are the elimination of flowering plants and ground cover in urban and rural areas alike,” she said. "The goal of planting 35 million wildflowers will go a long way toward helping provide the natural habitat and food supply that is essential for healthy, sustainable bee colonies.”

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Honey Nut Cheerios 'Save the bees' campaign brings all the feels
Popular cereal brand drops its iconic honeybee mascot in Canada to raise awareness of threats facing bee populations.