Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Honeybees at Blackhawk Country Club

The value and perception of golf courses can be enhanced by promoting their beneficial impacts on wildlife and ecosystems. Golf course managers can provide safe havens for a wide range of wildlife through careful planning and partnerships. They can also play a critical role in leading the initiative to promote and protect many wildlife species. The growing development of housing and commercial space, coupled with the high demands of agriculture, results in the loss or degradation of many natural spaces. Fortunately, golf courses are an excellent resource that can offer important places of refuge for wildlife.

Likely the most important organisms in our ecosystem are the pollinators, especially insect pollinators. They are critically important to the health and well-being of our environment. Nearly a third of the food that we eat has been made possible by pollinators. Insects are also crucial to the habitat and ecosystems that many other wildlife species depend on. Butterflies, flies, beetles and moths are important pollinators but bees (including honey bees) are the most industrious of all. A single bee can visit hundreds of thousands of flowers over its lifetime as it collects nectar and pollen.
Bees are a key indicator of the health and quality of an environment, unfortunately research suggests that their welfare is poor and continues to decline. Golf courses have an excellent opportunity to help redirect this trend by promoting and enhancing the ecosystem. Some relatively simple ways that golf courses can play an important role is by creating pollinator refuges, promoting pollinators and establishing honey bee hives. These simple endeavors offer an excellent opportunity to promote the tremendous positive benefits that golf courses provide to the environment. As for managing honey bee hives on golf courses, not only is it beneficial to the environment, but the honey harvested from the honey bees demonstrates the value of a locally produced, sustainable product. The honey harvested can be used in the clubhouse for food preparation providing a direct benefit to the members of the golf course.

Working with Drs. Chris Williamson and David Hogg from UW-Madison, we decided the naturalized prairie on 3 would be ideal for the honey bee hives. While honey bees can be very defensive of their hives, they are not aggressive while out foraging. The location chosen will be far enough from any regularly trafficked area that the bees should not feel threatened.

As we work on this project in the months to come we look forward to sharing what we learn and hopefully some honey.

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