Monday, November 24, 2014

What is all the buzz about?

From Europe to Washington, D.C., to Washington State and nearly every place between, the plight of honey bees has been on the main stage. After attending the Pollinator Summit (presented by the New Jersey Green Industry Council) and Dr. Daniel Potter’s keynote address at the New York State Turfgrass Association Turf and Grounds Exposition, I have come to learn a lot about the critical role pollinators play in our world. Like turf, there are internal and external stresses that can upset the balance of the hive and industry. Oh and there are politics, lots of politics. There is also science, emotion and a host of other factors involved in the discussion. While the issues continue to swarm, let’s take a quick peek at golf’s footprint in this issue.

What role does turf play in the pollinator discussion? Neonicotinoid class insecticides (neonics), often used as a preventative for white grubs, have been shown to have adverse effect on pollinators. The degree to which they affect the beneficial insects often has more to do with which side of the political issue you wish to argue. While this situation is unfortunate it definitely can create disruption in turf right here in the Northeast region. Just this past year alone, legislative measures took place in New Jersey, New York, Vermont, and Maine to ban the use of neonics. Beekeepers in Vermont joined one superintendent at the committee hearing to assist in educating the legislators as to the minimal role neonics play in pollinator issues. Stephanie Darnell, technical development manager, Bayer CropScience, cited a survey of beekeepers that placed pesticides as the seventh most important stress factor to those in the bee industry, with varroa mite at the top of the list.

While none of the above mentioned legislation efforts were successful, it opens up the “what if” discussion. Without this useful tool, turf managers could be pushed to use more volatile chemicals, such as organophosphate and carbamate insecticides, to control the same pests. These options are much less environmentally friendly, more costly and potentially more harmful to non-target pests.

What can turf managers do with regards to our friendly pollinators?

Develop stewardship practices: Learn about our role as land managers and the stresses regarding honey bees. Develop spray programs with the sensitivities of pollinators in mind.

Support research: Emotion and regulation can often outpace research needed to answer vital questions, and this issue is no exception. Remain vigilant regarding the latest research, and adjust your practices as needed.

Be part of the solution: It is so often overlooked that the golf industry undertakes environmental initiatives simply because it is the right thing to do. The changing landscape is often a negative impact on pollinators, leaving open green space that includes pollinator friendly vegetation as a critical part of the solution. Whether you choose to work with industry partners on specifically developed pollinator friendly programs, or become conscious of areas and plantings that you could incorporate on your property, avenues are available for our industry to be part of the solution.

I encourage GCSAA chapters to reach out to your state apiarists as a resource for information. Invite that individual to a meeting or education day to spread the word about pollinators in your area. The more you learn about the role your facilities play in the issue, the better chance you have at being part of the solution.

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