10 Pollinator Protection
Most flowering plants need pollination to reproduce and grow fruit. While some plants are pollinated by wind, many require assistance from insects and other animals. Most people are aware of managed honey bees, but there are also 450 wild pollinator species in New York State, including bees, wasps, beetles, flies, ants, moths, and butterflies. In the absence of these pollinators, many plant species, including the fruits and vegetables we eat, would fail to reproduce. These include economically important crops in the state, such as apples, blueberries, cherries, tomatoes, squash, and peppers, all of which are pollinator-dependent for good yields.
Both wild and managed bees are facing threats that can alter their health, abundance, and distribution. According to the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan, “Over the past several years, the loss of managed pollinator colonies in the state has exceeded 50%. This is coupled with losses in the native pollinator community and the habitat that sustains them.” Research indicates that some pesticides are harmful to pollinators and can have negative effects at the sub-individual level (such as gene expression or physiology), individual level (such as mortality, foraging, or learning), or even the colony level (such as colony growth, overwintering, or honey production).
Because of the potential for non-target effects of products used in golf course management, pesticide applicators need to be mindful of the impact that pesticides have on pollinator species and their habitat. In addition to adhering to best management practices related to pesticide applications, golf course managers can protect and enhance habitat on the course in a number of ways to help both wild pollinators and managed bees (including hives on the course or in surrounding areas). For more information, see the following: New York State Integrated Pest Management Pollinator web page and the Pollinator Network @ Cornell.
BMP Principles for Pollinator Protection
- Adhere to pest management practices that protect pollinators when selecting and applying chemical control.
- Preserve and enhance habitat on the golf course that provides for pollinator foraging and nesting.
10.1 Regulatory Considerations
Pollinator protection language is a requirement for pesticide labels. Following the label is mandatory. Pesticide applicators must be aware of honey bee toxicity groups and be able to understand precautionary statements. In addition, they should be aware of the behavior of honey bees, wild bees and other pollinators that may visit golf courses and avoid applying pesticides when and where these insects may be present. They should also understand the effects of pesticides on bees and other pollinators, as well as the routes of exposure. The USGA publication Making Room for Native Pollinators provides the basics of pollinator biology useful for pesticide applicators. The Pollinator Partnership has visual depictions of honey bee, solitary bee, colony and general pollinator life cycles that are useful as well.
Recordkeeping may be required by law in order to use some pesticide products. In addition to legal requirements, more detailed records should be kept in accordance with IPM principles. keeping records of both pests and pest control activity provide information on past infestations and control effectiveness that can be referenced to inform future management actions.
10.2 Pest Management Practices that Reduce Impacts on Pollinators
It is important to minimize the impacts of pesticides on bees and beneficial arthropods. Pesticide applicators must use appropriate tools to help manage pests while safeguarding pollinators, the environment, and humans. As detailed in the NYS Pollinator Protection Plan, the state has committed to IPM on state lands “by managing pests on turf and ornamental plants solely through mechanical, sanitary, cultural or biological means to the maximum extent practicable” while recognizing that pesticide use is necessary under certain circumstances.
Superintendents can utilize IPM best management practices for turf that protect pollinators by following these simple steps:
- Identifying what is truly a pest (i.e. while solitary ground nesting bees and wasps might be alarming, most are harmless).
- Setting higher weed thresholds in low-use areas.
- Monitoring bee activity to avoid applying pesticides during peak activity times.
When the use of pesticides is necessary, being mindful of pollinators requires focusing on minimizing exposure to non-target pollinators in play and non-play course areas.
10.3 Preserving and Enhancing Habitat on the Course
Habitat for pollinators includes foraging habitat and nesting sites. Pollinator-friendly habitat contains a diversity of blooming plants of different colors and heights, with blossoms throughout the entire growing season. Native plants are best, proving the most nutritious food source for native pollinators. Even plants we consider weeds provide important habitat. For example, red clover offers an important nectar and pollen source. Providing nesting sites for native species can be accomplished by taking simple steps in out-of-play areas, such as leaving stems and coarse woody debris and leaving exposed patches of well-drained soil, or by creating nesting areas such as wooden nesting boxes for hole nesting bees.
Pollinator habitat on the golf course includes both areas renovated specifically with pollinators in mind and existing out-of-play areas. For example, one of the most effective BMPs for protecting water quality also protects pollinator habitat: leaving a low/no management buffer strip around water courses and bodies of water. Opportunities for renovation can be used to enhance the habitat for pollinators with native plants, wildflowers, and flowering trees and shrubs. Part 2 of our video case study describes the process used to establish native areas during renovations at Rockville Links Club in Rockville Centre on Long Island. The NYS BMP case study Enhancing Habitat for Native Pollinators with Low-to-No Maintenance Areas at Rockland Country Club provides another example of the establishment process for a native area attractive to pollinators.
For more information see:
- Making Room For Native Pollinators, Xerces Society.
- Pollen Specialist Bees of the Eastern United States
- Host plants for specialist bees of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States
- Monarchs in the Rough, a program sponsored by Audubon International and the Environmental Defense Fund to provide superintendents with regionally appropriate seeds to restore monarch butterfly habitat in out-of-play areas.
10.4 Managed Bee Hives on the Course
Hosting honey bee hives on the golf course provide bees with valuable green space, especially in urban areas, and can be a positive public-relations tool. If embarking on this effort, consider:
- Partnering with an experienced local beekeeper. Proper beekeeping is time and knowledge intensive. A list of beekeeper organizations in New York is available. If not partnering with an experienced beekeeper, superintendents or other responsible staff should attend a beekeeping course.
- Ensuring enough food sources are available for both honey bees and wild pollinator species.
- Placing hives away from areas where golf course workers or golfers are active to avoid stings.
- Facing the hive exit in a direction away from in play areas of the course.
- Educating golfers via explanatory signs, newsletters, and sales of honey and other bee products.
- Calling in an experienced beekeeper if disease or parasites are suspected in order to identify and mitigate any health issues.
For more information on how managed hives have been integrated at a golf course and related communications with club members, see Part 3 of our video case study at Rockville Links Club.
10.5 Pollinator Protection Best Management Practices
Pest Management Practices
- Follow label information directing the application of pesticide when plants may be in bloom and follow all BMPs to avoid impacting pollinators.
- Inform nearby beekeepers in advance of applying pesticides so they have the option of moving their hives.
- Use drift reduction methods to stay on target by using the latest spray technologies, selecting nozzles correctly, using backpack sprayers when possible, and monitoring wind.
- Do not apply pesticides when pollinators are active (spray at night, or in early morning/late evening and when air is calm).
- Before applying a pesticide, scout the area for both harmful and beneficial insect populations, and use pesticides only when populations present exceed a damage threshold.
- Reduce preventive pesticide inputs to only areas with known chronic pest pressure.
- If flowering weeds are prevalent, mow or remove them before applying pesticides.
- Use pesticides that have a lower impact on pollinators.
- Avoid applications during unusually low temperatures or when dew is present or forecast.
- When possible, use spray or granular formulations of pesticides that are known to be less hazardous to bees (e.g. wettable powders).
- Reduce planting dust from treated seeds: use wax treated seeds, use deflectors on machinery, and be aware of dry/windy conditions.
- Follow irrigation instructions carefully to ensure pesticides are washed from foliage into soil. In addition, nonionic surfactant can help reduce the potential for drift.
- Consider the use of biologicals (e.g. entomopathogens) and bio-based lures, baits, and pheromones as alternatives to insecticides for pest management.
Pollinator Habitat Preservation and Enhancement.
- Utilize native species when renovating out-of-play areas.
- Choose flowers of different shapes, sizes, and colors.
- Choose species that bloom at different times of the year.
- Include both perennials and annuals in native plant areas.
- Choose south-facing sites whenever possible for establishing native areas.
- Leave stems and coarse woody debris in native areas for pollinator nesting.
- Leave exposed patches of well-drained soil in native areas for pollinator nesting.
- Consider joining the Monarchs in the Rough
- Provide water sources with shallow sides to prevent pollinators from drowning.