Pollinator BMPs: Updates!

Our stand alone publication, Best Management Practices for Pollinators on New York State Golf Courses, has been revised and republished, now available for on-line reading as a flip book: http://nysgolfbmp.cals.cornell.edu/nys_pollinator_bmps_2019/.

Over 400 wild species of pollinators inhabit New York State. Golf courses, especially in developed areas, can provide significant areas of habitat to support these species and domesticated honey bees as well. This publication contains the information superintendents need to protect pollinators while responsibly using  pesticides to meet their needs and guidance on providing habitat to support healthy pollinator populations.

You Can Help Monarchs

Most people can easily recognize a monarch butterfly, but did you know that their numbers have suffered dramatic declines in the last 40 years? Habitat loss in both their summer and overwintering locations has played a major role in this decline.

Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed and their caterpillars only eat milkweed. Therefore, superintendents can allow milkweed to persist in open areas and can introduce milkweed into suitable areas on the course if none currently exists.

A new program aimed specifically at helping superintendents to conserve monarch habitat can provide assistance in these efforts. Monarchs in the Rough, sponsored by Audubon International and the Environmental Defense Fund, provides superintendents with regionally appropriate milkweed seeds to restore monarch butterfly habitat in out-of-play areas. Monarchs in the Rough also offers signage, posters, and technical guidance to golf course managers in the installation and management of monarch habitat and ideas of how to communicate with course members about these conservation efforts.

No Kidding: Using Goats to Control Vegetation

At Whippoorwill Club in Armonk, buffer strips around ponds on the property had become overgrown and encroached upon by invasive species. Because of the rocky, steep hillside, chemical control was not an option and physical removal difficult.

To control the growth, an innovative approach to vegetation removal was utilized: goats. Goats are browsers who prefer brushy vegetation and vines (including poison ivy) versus other species like sheep who prefer to graze on grass. Goats are also unique in weed seeds are left unviable after being digested and will not grow out of their excrement. Green Goats, a company out of Rhinebeck NY, was used to introduce goats and set up fencing. Three foot livestock fencing powered by a solar powered fence charger was used to enclose the area for the goats.

The project was very successful and areas that were completely overgrown were cleared of  foliage within a couple of weeks. It also provided a significant cost savings – estimated at $15,000 less than what would have been spent to remove the overgrowth physically. In addition, because of the conservation easement on the property, goats were the only viable option for clearing the overgrown areas. The area cleared by the goats will be replanted with native species.

Because of the project’s success, goats will be brought back to new areas. Though very successful, the goats did have one unintended side effect: they slowed play. As members passed the area, many would stop to see the goats and take pictures.


It’s Spring! Time to Plan for Pollinators

Spring is a great time to consider adding native plants to your facility to create additional habitat for pollinators and review the availability of nesting sites for these species.

Established Wildflower Area

Pollinator habitat on the golf course includes both areas planted specifically with pollinators in mind and existing out-of-play areas. One of the most effective BMPs for protecting water quality also protects pollinator habitat, i.e., leaving a low- or no-management buffer strip around water courses and bodies of water.

To add habitat for pollinators, add a diversity of blooming plants of different colors and heights that blossom 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, milkweed is a food source for monarch caterpillars. Monarchs in the Rough, a program sponsored by Audubon International and the Environmental Defense Fund, can provide you with regionally appropriate milkweed seeds to restore monarch butterfly habitat in out-of-play areas.

In addition to food, pollinators need places to nest. Simple efforts can increase nesting sites, 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.

For more information on nest site plans and native plants species for pollinators see:

Best Management Practices

  • 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 project.
  • Provide water sources with shallow sides to prevent pollinators from drowning.