Golf Courses Abuzz with Pollinators

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Scott Witte, director of agronomy at Cantigny Golf in Wheaton, Illinois, and Luke Cella, executive director of the Midwest Association of Golf Course Superintendents were recognized by Bayer for their efforts to promote healthy ecosystems for honey bees and other pollinators through the Bee Barometer Project.

The Bee Barometer Project, founded by Witte in 2010, is dedicated to changing public perception about golf courses’ roles in conservation and land management. Golf courses offer large areas of valuable greenspace across the Midwest, which are ideal for supporting diverse ecosystems with various types of flora and fauna, not just for sport.

Cantigny Golf is home to six managed hives and two wild hives, all of which thrive on native wildflower patches found throughout the grounds. However, these bees support more than just the pretty flowers that line the fairway. They offer a great learning opportunity for golfing patrons about the important role pollinators play. Additionally, honey provided by the managed hives is incorporated into meals prepared by the course chef, as well as sold in the pro shop to help generate funds for Witte’s environmental projects.

Through his role with the MAGCS, Cella has worked with Witte to implement and promote environmental initiatives modeling the Bee Barometer Project on other Chicagoland area golf courses.

“Scott and Luke’s passion for pollinator education and environmental health is exceedingly apparent,” says Becky Langer, project manager of the North American Bayer Bee Care Program. “We are so glad to have this pair as the first partnership to receive the Community Leadership Award. Not only do they serve as an example of a great partnership benefitting pollinators, but they are also a great example for community education and how a program can inspire others to follow in action.”

As the 2016 winners of the Bayer Bee Care Community Leadership Award, Witte and Cella will receive a $6,000 grant to bring their program to other golf courses in the area. Additionally, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, of which Cantigny Golf is a part, will match the grant two-to-one to set up a Pollinator Fund of $18,000 that will be used to help promote diverse ecosystems on golf courses throughout Chicago.

“I’m very honored and humbled to have won the Bayer Community Leadership Award,“ said Witte. “With these funds, we can perpetuate the message that golf courses are very healthy ecosystems when managed properly and proactively, and honey bees and pollinators can coexist side by side with world class golf conditions all across the U.S.”

Part of the Community Leadership Award grant will be put toward a scholarship fund to enable more superintendents to begin their own beekeeping and pollinator programs.

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