11 Pollinator Protection
Most flowering plants need pollination to reproduce and grow fruit. While some plants are pollinated by wind, many require assistance from insects and other animals. Farmers throughout Delaware depend on both honey bees and native bees to pollinate their crops each year. It takes nearly 300 million honey bees to successfully pollinate these crops, which contributes more than $38.7 million to the state’s economy annually. As of 2018, 289 beekeepers with 5,934 colonies in-state are registered with the Delaware Department of Agriculture.
Both wild and managed bees are facing threats that can alter their health, abundance, and distribution. These threats include parasites, diseases, and other pathogens, lack of genetic diversity, poor nutrition due to monoculture agriculture, stress in adult bees caused by transportation and overcrowding, and exposure to pesticides. 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).
Because of the potential for non-target effects of products used in golf course management, pesticide applicators need to be mindful of the impact that pesticides have on pollinator species and their habitat. In addition to adhering to best management practices related to pesticide application, golf course managers can protect and enhance habitat on the course in a number of ways to help both wild pollinators and managed bees. For more information, see the Delaware Pollinator Protection Plan.
11.1 Regulatory Considerations
Pollinator protection language is a requirement for pesticide labels. Following the label is mandatory. Pesticide applicators must be aware of honey bee toxicity groups and be able to understand precautionary statements (Figure 25). In addition, they should be aware of the behavior of honey bees, wild bees, and other pollinators that may visit golf courses, and they should avoid applying pesticides when and where these insects may be present. They should also understand the effects of pesticides on bees and other pollinators, as well as the routes of exposure. The USGA publication Making Room for Native Pollinators provides the basics of pollinator biology useful for pesticide applicators. The Pollinator Partnership has published visual depictions of honey bee, solitary bee, colony, and general pollinator life cycles that are useful as well.
Recordkeeping may be required by law in order to use some products. IPM principles include keeping records of both pests and pest control activity so that records may be referred to for information on past infestations and effectiveness of controls to better inform future management actions.
Some golf courses maintain hives of domestic bees. In Delaware, managed hives must be registered with the State Apiarist in writing within 10 days of the time the bees are acquired and annually after that on or before January 30th of each year.
11.2 Pest Management Practices that Reduce Impacts on Pollinators
Protecting pollinators on the golf course does not preclude the use of pesticides, but instead minimizes the potential impact from these chemicals. Pesticide applicators must use appropriate tools to help manage pests while safeguarding pollinators, the environment, and humans. Using IPM best management practices is an important key to protecting pollinators because they reduce pesticide usage and minimize the potential of exposure. Superintendents can utilize IPM best management practices for turf that protect pollinators by following these simple steps:
- Identifying what is truly a pest. (For example, solitary ground-nesting bees and wasps might be alarming, but most are harmless.)
- Setting higher weed thresholds in low-use areas.
- Monitoring bee activity to avoid applying pesticides during peak activity times (i.e. applying pesticides in the early morning or evening).
When the use of pesticides is necessary, being mindful of pollinators includes selecting chemicals with low toxicity to bees, short residual toxicity, or properties repellent to bees; using caution when applying near flowering plants, including flowering weeds (mow first whenever possible); and avoiding drift. In addition, applicators are also encouraged to utilize FieldWatch to locate any nearby apiaries before applying pesticides on the course.
11.3 Preserving and Enhancing Habitat on the Course
Habitat for pollinators includes foraging habitat, nesting sites, and water sources. Pollinator-friendly habitat contains a diversity of blooming plants of different colors and heights, with blossoms throughout the entire growing season. Native plants are best for providing the most nutritious food source for native pollinators. DDA maintains a list of sources for native plants in the state. Even plants considered weeds provide important habitat. For example, red clover offers an important nectar and pollen source.
Increasing habitat to meet pollinator needs can be accomplished simply by adding to existing plantings or through more intensive efforts to establish a larger native area. Pollinator habitat on the golf course includes existing out-of-play areas (such as buffer strips around water courses and bodies of water) and areas renovated specifically with pollinators in mind that include native plants, wildflowers, and flowering trees and shrubs. Out-of-play pollinator habitats have been shown to help nearly 50 species of pollinating insects (Dobbs and Potter, Golf Course Management). To convert existing out-of-play areas to a new native area, site preparation is key and may require more than one season of effort to reduce competition from invasive or other undesirable plants prior to planting. For more information on establishing a native area, see Meadows and Buffers for Bees: Creating Mid-Atlantic Pollinator Habitat and Making Room For Native Pollinators. For information on creating habitat specifically for monarch butterflies, a species in decline, see the Monarchs in the Rough website.
In addition to foraging habitat, pollinators require nesting sites. Providing nesting sites for native species can be accomplished by taking simple steps in out-of-play areas, such as:
- Leaving exposed patches of bare soil.
- Leaving dead trees, stumps, and posts.
- Planting hollow stem grass species.
- Providing stem bundles of hollow plant stems like bamboo.
- Creating bee blocks for solitary nesters such as mason and leafcutter bees.
- Creating artificial boxes for bumble bees.
A clean, reliable source of water is another essential habitat consideration for pollinators. Pollinators can use natural and human-made water features such as running water, pools, ponds, and small containers of water. Water sources should have a shallow or sloping side, so the pollinators can easily approach the water without drowning. In addition, irrigation management practices that preserve ground-nesting pollinators include irrigating at night and avoiding flooding any areas. Additional resources for selecting plants in Delaware to attract pollinators include the following:
- The Xerces Society recommended pollinator plants for the Mid-Atlantic Region: http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/MidAtlanticPlantList_web.pdf
- The Pollinator Partnership Guide: Selecting Plants for Pollinators, A Regional Guide for Farmers, Land Managers, and Gardeners in the Ecological Region of the Eastern Broadleaf Forest Oceanic Province
- The Pollinator Partnership Guide: Selecting Plants for Pollinators, A Regional Guide for Farmers, Land Managers, and Gardeners in the Outer Coastal Plain Mixed Province
11.4 Managed Bee Hives on the Course
Hosting honey bee hives on the golf course provides bees with valuable green space, especially in urban areas and can be a positive public-relations tool. If embarking on this effort, consider:
- Partnering with an experienced local beekeeper. Proper beekeeping is time and knowledge intensive. If not partnering with an experienced beekeeper, then superintendents or other responsible staff should attend a beekeeping course. The Delaware Beekeepers Association may be able to provide additional assistance.
- Ensuring that enough food sources are available for both honey bees and wild pollinator species.
- Placing hives away from areas where golf course workers or golfers are active to avoid stings.
- Facing the hive exit in a direction away from in-play areas of the course.
- Educating golfers via explanatory signs, newsletters, and sales of honey and other bee products.
- Calling in an experienced beekeeper if disease or parasites are suspected in order to identify and mitigate any health issues.
TheDriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry website allows beekeepers to register their hive locations. This site also has a new feature, BeeCheck, a specialized portal for beekeepers. This site now offers flags that may be used to increase the visibility of the hives. Information about this site and flags can be found at FieldWatch.com
11.5 Pollinator Protection Best Management Practices
Pest Management Best Management Practices
- Before applying a pesticide, inspect the area for both harmful and beneficial insect populations, and use pesticides only when a threshold of damage has been indicated.
- Consider biological control agents, lures, baits, and pheromones as alternatives to insecticides for pest management.
- When pesticides are needed, select those with a lower impact on pollinators.
- If a granular formulation will control the pest, choose it over liquid formulations if honey bees are not in the vicinity Granular versions of pesticides are generally less hazardous to most bees, though honey bees may gather the granular version and pack into cells in hives.
- Restrict applications to early morning or evening when pollinators are not as active.
- Avoid applying pesticides during bloom season, and mow first to remove blooms, including those of flowering weeds such as white clover.
- Avoid application during unusually low temperatures or when dew is forecast.
- Use the latest spray technologies, such as drift-reduction nozzles to prevent off-site movement of pesticide.
Habitat Enhancement Best Management Practices
- Follow site preparation guidelines when renovating areas to ensure success.
- Choose south-facing sites whenever possible for establishing native areas.
- Place plants in masses (three or more) to attract pollinators.
- Select plants that feature different shapes, sizes, and colors and that bloom at different times of the year.
- Select native grasses that provide foraging and nesting habitat.
- Use both perennials and annuals.
- 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 for pollinators.