Cheerios tries to help curve the bee death rate

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Honey bees do more than frighten us, according to local bee keeper Phil Raines they help us survive.

"If you look at all your colored vegetables," explained Raines. "Your apples, your oranges, your cherries, your strawberries, not necessarily tomatoes, but three quarters of that food would not exist without honey bees to pollinate it."

As something we rely on so heavily, it's alarming how quickly honey bees are dying off. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture bees are dying at a rate of 45 percent over the last year. Raines believes it has to do with the lack of plant diversity.

"We're pretty much a mono crop," said Raines. "Corn, beans, cotton, wheat, and what happens is the diet of the Honey Bee, just like us, they need a diverse pollen source."

General Mills Cheerios is taking a step towards slowing that rate of bee population decline by offering out over 100 million wild flower seeds in a national campaign called bring back the bees. Raines says while it's a great start it's only a small piece of what needs to happen.

"The gesture is great," explained Raines. "The awareness of bee keeping and struggles bee keepers are facing is great, but in the big picture of things we need this in a thousand fold."

Raines says we can help too by purchasing wild flowers and planting them ourselves in our own gardens, giving honey bees what they need to survive. Raines says he saw a huge death in his own colonies this year losing 600 of his 800 hives.

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