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In Fort Worth, Bicyclists Drop Seed Bombs To Help Bees And Butterflies

Christopher Connelly
Riders threw 4,000 seed bombs along a 7-mile stretch of the Trinity River in Fort Worth on Saturday.

About 100 bicyclists spent Saturday morning riding along the Trinity River in Fort Worth as part of an event called The Great Seed Bomb. The riders tossed 4,000 seed bombs along the Trinity River in Fort Worth to build up habitat for bees and butterflies.

If you’re wondering what a seed bomb is, obviously there is no actual explosive involved.

Really, these are clods of dirt, compost and clay about an inch in diameter packed with seeds that you toss out. You hope they grow into something.

On Saturday, the seeds in question were green milkweed and Texas wildflowers, “all native to these prairie lands,” according to event organizer Jillian Jordan. She’s sort of equal parts marketing professional, environmentalist and entrepreneur.

The Great Seed Bomb featured a 15-mile bike ride as well as an after-party with food trucks and a band. Donations were given for local environmental organizations, and local vendors had tables to hawk their wares.

“We’re all hyperlocal here,” Jordan says.

This event is Jordan's way of helping out bees and monarch butterflies. The plants they love to eat have been killed off by development and chemicals used in landscaping and especially in farming.

“The farmers use this herbicide and it’s killing off some of the most vital native plants,” she said.                 

Milkweed is the only thing that monarch butterflies eat – and they need lots of it if they’re going to make it on their migration from Canada through Texas and onto Mexico. And the wildflower seeds are for the bees, which Anne Stine says are a vital part of the food chain. She’s a Fort Worth-based pollinator conservation specialist for the Xerces Society.

“They are the foundation of the food web for so many creatures,” Stine says.

Credit Christopher Connelly / KERA News
Jillian Jordan organized the event. The Denton resident said she picked Fort Worth, in part, because the city has a growing environment-oriented community.

Put it this way, she says: All those fruits and vegetables you should probably eat more of – the things that give you so many of your vitamins and minerals – most of those need bees. Even nuts rely on honey bees to reproduce.

Stine says it may not be news that bees have been struggling.

“They maybe hear that they’re in trouble, but they don’t realize exactly the magnitude of the declines we’re talking about,” she says.

Last year, 40 percent of honeybee hives died – that’s two out of every five hives. We don’t have good data on how wild bees are doing, but Stine says building any population back up is a good thing.

Despite those gloomy statistics, folks tossing seed bombs in Fort Worth were in pretty good spirits. Michael Gore stopped at a water station just past the halfway point. He lives in Fort Worth. He says he rides the trail a lot and thought it was a win-win to drop seed bombs while helping pollinators by restoring  habitat.

“I just think it’s a good cause and it’s very important to the environment as a whole,” Gore says.

It’s not really clear exactly how many of the seed bombs will sprout into new plants. Gore joked that he’d be looking out for the ones he threw out to see if they grow up into milkweed and wildflowers.

Jordan, the event’s organizer, says she picked Fort Worth because of people like Gore who care about nature.

“Fort Worth is kind of coming up with the environmental mindset,” she says. “They get it. So really I’m looking for my people. Whenever I can find them, that’s where we try to plant our seeds.”

Jordan says she’ll be looking for her people in other cities soon.

She hopes that this first seed bombing bike ride can grow into a bigger movement to get the bees buzzing and monarchs feasting on milkweed all across Texas.

Christopher Connelly is a reporter covering issues related to financial instability and poverty for KERA’s One Crisis Away series. In 2015, he joined KERA to report on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. From Fort Worth, he also focused on politics and criminal justice stories.