Seedles Is a Cute San Francisco Startup That Wants to Save the Bees

Do seed bombs actually work?

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Apr 22 2016, 7:00pm

Photo: Markus Trienke/Flickr/Flickr

Did you drink coffee this morning? Or did you have avocados, pickles, or lemons with any of your meals this week? If you consumed citrus fruit, berries, apples, almonds, cucumbers, onions, pumpkin or carrots you owe your diet partially to bees.

Bees, along with birds, bats, beetles and butterflies make up a category of agricultural aides known as pollinators. Bees are particularly industrious pollinators, carrying the dust on their furry bodies while spreading pollen from one flower to the next. They even do a little dance to invite hive mates to join the party. When bees pollinate, it's like a celebration.

But unfortunately, environmental factors have interfered with the party—specifically, the declining availability of quality flowers.

That's where Seedles, San Francisco-based company that makes so-called "seed bombs," comes in.

By combining a mixture of organic compost, worm casings, and a special "home brew" of compost and native, non-genetically modified wildflower seeds, Seedles set a goal to grow one billion wildflowers.

"We first set out to grow one million wildflowers to leave the world a better place for our son," Seedles "Lead Pollinator" and CEO Chris Burley told Motherboard in an email. "After reaching that goal in a month we decided it was time to kick up the game a notch and aim for one billion. We're over 35 million already and our goal is to reach 1 billion before 2020."

The nickel-sized balls look more like luxury bath bombs than weapons potentially used to fight bee depopulation and global hunger. They are also surprisingly easy to use, helping even the laziest and most clueless wannabe gardeners turn into environmental warriors. Kits start at $9 and average about $1 per seed ball.

Some of Seedles' seed bombs. Photo: Seedles

"Our aim is to make growing clean food for the bees as easy and fun as possible," said Burley. "Seedles are simply tossed on the ground and when given a bit of water and love, grow into delightful bunches of wildflowers."

Is it really that simple? For the most part it is. Organizations like Greenpeace encourage seed bombing and say it's an effective way to to help the environment.

While some say its roots can be traced to aerial reforestation in the 1930s, the term "seed grenade" was first used in popular culture by Liz Christy in 1973 when she started the "Green Guerrillas."

Her seed grenades were made from balloons filled with a mix of tomato seeds and fertilizer and were tossed over fences onto empty lots in New York City Neighborhoods. Christy's seed bombs are considered to be the beginning of the guerilla gardening movement.

This type of rogue crop development was more about aesthetics than necessity, so innovative environmental advocates are developing more sophisticated and scalable ways to seed bomb the world for survival.

What can you do to add wild flowers to your city? "Urban dwellers can plant them in their backyards, front yards, porches, or wherever else you want wildflowers to grow in your neighborhood," Burley said. "We've tossed them into vacant lots before and seen miracles happen as the year progresses, although we always recommend doing things legally. You can also advocate for more wildflowers at work, many businesses have plenty of landscape to activate into wildflower gardens."

Here is a map Seedles created to help determine what type of wild flowers are grown in your region.

If you're looking for a more DIY approach, online guides like Instructables have instructions for making homemade seed bombs. Be aware that experts including the Natural Resource Defense Council recommends using high quality compost and seeds in order to get the best results.

Seed bombing property without permission is illegal in many places, so make sure you're allowed to spread the joy of wild flowers before bombing your hood.