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.

New Pollinator BMPs Published

With funding from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) and the participation of Cornell University scientists and educators, the BMP project has developed BMPs specifically for pollinators in New York State. These continued efforts demonstrate the ongoing commitment of the state’s golf industry to implement BMPs and expand the knowledge base when needed.

Both wild and managed bees are facing threats that can alter their health, abundance, and distribution. Research indicates that some pesticides can be harmful for 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).

Adhering to BMPs on the golf course can reduce the potential for impact to pollinators. A key practice is to utilize integrated pest management methods to reduce the number of pesticide applications, without sacrificing turf quality. 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.

Preserving and/or enhancing habitat, both foraging habitat and nesting sites, is another key strategy for golf courses to pursue to help pollinators. Pollinator-friendly habitat contains a diversity of blooming plants of different colors and heights, with blossoms throughout the entire growing season. 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 or bamboo sticks.

In addition to providing habitat on the golf course, hosting honey bee hives on golf courses is increasing in popularity as people look for ways to help pollinators. Hosting hives provides bees with valuable green space, especially in urban areas, and can be a positive public-relations tool.
For more information on pollinator BMPs, see the new Pollinator section of the web site, download Best Management Practices for Pollinators on New York State Golf Courses and see our case studies on pollinators on two courses in New York State:

• “Enhancing Habitat for Native Pollinators with Low-to-No Maintenance Areas“, Rockland Country Club Golf Course, Sparkill (pdf)
• “Protecting Pollinators on the Golf Course”, Rockville Links Club, Rockville Centre (pdf)
Rockville Links Video Case Study