A joint pilot initiative pioneered by Syngenta Crop Protection, administered through STRI, with support from The Wildlife Farming Company is set to provide golf clubs with management techniques that will help to restore bumblebee populations on golf courses, demonstrating that golf and the environment can co-exist.
“Operation Bumblebee” is based on the science from the five year “Buzz Project” and was first set up to help restore bumblebee populations on farmland. The success of the project has led Syngenta Crop Protection to extend the work to golf. Why? Because bumblebees are nature’s pollinator and are in serious decline, and because golf is a major land use covering over 150,000 hectares of the UK’s land area.
Golf courses provide ideal locations because they are stable, little disturbed and normally support significant tracts of land out of play that, with management, could provide ideal habitat for bumblebees and other invertebrates.
Four golf clubs have initially agreed to take part in a three year trial programme. These are Haggs Castle in Scotland, Worsley Golf Club in the north west, Fulford Heath in the Midlands and Bearwood Lakes in the south east.
Three separate trials on each of the courses have been set up within areas of grassland rough, out of the principal play areas. Different treatments are being applied to reduce the coarse grass component and include the use of Fusilade Max (selective graminicide) and Primo MAXX (turf growth regulator), alongside more traditional cutting and scarification techniques. All areas will be oversown with a pollen and nectar rich wildflower seed mixture suitable to the golf course environment. This is the first time that chemicals are being used alongside more traditional practical management techniques for conservation gain.
Monitoring will be undertaken by STRI who will be responsible for disseminating the results.
Bumblebees face a very uncertain future, one of the twenty species previously found in the UK has disappeared altogether and three more are on the verge of extinction. Total bumblebee numbers have declined by over 70% in just the last twenty years due to the loss of suitable habitats. Managing grasslands for bumblebees is essential if the countryside is to retain its diversity of wildflowers and the wide range of associated species that grasslands and meadowland support.
Creating more open wildflower rich areas of grassland will put back vital pollen and nectar rich sources for bumblebees. Encouraging the right kinds of wildflowers will be the key to longer term survival of these important species.
Areas of bumblebee habitat need not be large, experts have calculated that just 0.1 of a hectare per 100 hectares can make a significant difference to bumblebee numbers.
The Benefits of Operation Bumblebee for Golf
The Operation Bumblebee trials will provide information and practical expertise on how best to create, improve and manage quality habitats for bumblebees in out of play areas on the golf course. The management practices conducive to bumblebees will also help other associated fauna. Improving habitat conditions for bumblebees will represent an important environmental benefit with no or little detriment to the playing of the game. It is hoped that this work will generate a wider acceptance and awareness of golf’s positive environmental role within the wider landscape.