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.

Pollinator-Related Resources for Turf Managers

While the NYS BMP Committee is hard at work formulating BMPs for pollinator protection on the state’s golf courses, an increasing amount of information is available to help golf course superintendents protect pollinators by minor modifications to management regimes and to enhance habitat to help sustain pollinator populations. Selected publications and websites are briefly described below:



Pollinator Video

The NYS BMP project created a case study video series on protecing pollinators at Rockville Links Club in the midst of urbanized Long Island. Watch the video series to see how golf course superintendent Lucas Knutson used opportunities to renovate non-play areas on the course with pollinators in mind and the BMPs he follows to protect them. He has also introduced bee hives in two locations on the course and provides insight into communicating with potential concerns from club members.

A playlist has been created that organizes the four part case study series. An introduction provides an overview of the case study as well as BMPs for pollinators that superintendents can implement to protect both managed bees and native pollinators. Parts 1-3 provide more information on enhancing habitat on the golf course to support pollinator populations as well as experience in communicating these efforts to club members.


Pollinators are in trouble all over this country, including New York State, with documented significant declines in population levels. However, because golf courses provide a large expanse of mostly undeveloped land, they can help pollinators by providing habitat. These undeveloped expanses of land are of special significance especially in urbanized /suburbanized areas of the state that may not have expansive open areas.

The NYS BMP program has conducted a case study of the Rockville Links Club on Long Island where superintendent Lucas Knutson has renovated three areas on the golf course with pollinators in mind as well as adding bee hives to the golf course. These case studies (both written and video) show how Knutson established native areas, utilizes best management practices to protect pollinators, and how these efforts have been communicated to club members.

At Rockville Links, BMPs to protect pollinators from any impact from pesticide applications include:

  • scouting, to determine pest location, movement, and overall pest pressure;
  • product selection and selecting an effective product with low toxicity to bees and short residual toxicity;
  • timing applications so as not to apply pesticides to blooming plants when bees might be present and mowing before applications; and
  • watering in pesticides to drive product into the roots for uptake, unless the label indicates otherwise.

The NYS BMP program will be adding more information on BMPs for protecting pollinators and enhancing habitat to this web site later this year. In the meantime, additional BMPs for pollinators are detailed in the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan,