Honeybees and Golf September 2022

Honeybees and Golf: An evaluation of their relationship 4 The Study We began by locating four anonymous golf course superintendents around the state of New York who were currently operating a honeybee program at their facility. These superintendents sent pollen and wax samples to the honeybee testing laboratory at Cornell University in the summer and fall. The samples were then tested for a wide range of chemicals. According to the test results, no elevated levels of toxic chemicals were detected. The timing of a study such as this will influence its outcomes, therefore, our conclusions are based on understanding that bee activity and plant protection needs will differ depending on seasonal influences. We acknowledge that a scientific study would require multiple comprehensive tests per year over a several year period. As a point of reference, our grant period for this study ran from mid-summer to early winter. The Results The lab test results indicated there were no elevated chemical findings among any of the samples provided. Understanding what the test results indicate can be complex. Bees generally pollinate within 2-3 miles from the hive location but can travel up to 8 or 9 miles from the hive. Knowing bees will very likely travel off the golf course to pollinate, particularly in urban areas, can make quantifying the lab test results complicated. If there is a high result returned for a particular chemical, how do we know it came from the golf course? That’s just one aspect of the testing process that can be confusing. In some cases, test results might show the existence of a chemical that has not been used on property for years. Though it is possible that the bees in this scenario are traveling offsite to pollinate, it is also possible that they have encountered the chemical on-site even years after the chemical has no longer been applied on the property. Some chemicals that may be harmful to bees have a long half-life and may still be in the soil for several years after being applied. Therefore, the test result for a soil sample can show the existence of a chemical even if it is no longer being used on property. It would be virtually impossible to say with 100% certainty that, if the test results indicate a hazardous situation for honeybees, they are a quantitative indicator the current golf course management program is having a negative impact on its local honeybee hives. However, if sampling test results reveal no elevated levels of pesticides, it is safe assume there are no pesticide related issues at that facility at the time testing was performed. Our test results from both summer and late fall indicated no elevated levels of toxic chemicals. Conclusion The basis for this study is to help further the objective conversation and study regarding the true value of placing honey bee hives at golf courses (see figures 4 and 5). Using scientific data on which to base firm conclusions was not a goal of this evaluation. The conclusion presented here is based on the results of Cornell’s lab work and anecdotal information gleaned from conversations with many superintendents who currently manage a successful honeybee program. Based on information gathered from this study, if properly managed using current Best Management Practices standards, golf facilities should be encouraged to develop a honeybee/pollinator program. Hosting honeybee hives on the golf course provide bees with valuable green space, especially in urban areas, and can be a positive public-relations tool. Strengthening local pollinator populations and creating pollinator pathways throughout the state is a mutually beneficial goal for all NY residents…including the bees. Additional Information A few specific BMPs designed to protect pollinators include using Integrated Pest Management protocols for pesticide application decision making, mowing flowering plants prior to spraying them with a pesticide, using drift reduction methods to stay on target with pesticide applications, and using pesticides with lower impact on pollinators (particularly in areas where pollinators are known to be active). For more information about how golf’s role in protecting pollinators, visit the NYGCF website at www.nysgolfbmp.cals.cornell.edu or the New York Golf Course Foundation YouTube channel.