Honeybees have been a teaching and research topic at the University of Georgia for many years. These insects are important to American agriculture because they pollinate a wide variety of crops, contributing to food diversity and security.
The UGA Golf Course is the latest group to commit to the mission of sustainable bee management.
Scott Griffith, the golf course superintendent and assistant manager, took an interest in bees in late 2021. Since then, he has pursued opportunities to add a hive on the golf course.
“It was not only for education but also a tool for general awareness of the importance of bees,” said Griffith.
Some help was required to get started on the project, so Griffith contacted expert Jennifer Berry, a research professional and lab manager at the UGA Bee Laboratory in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Over the last two decades, her research objectives have been to improve honeybee health and the effects of pesticides on insects.
Berry was initially concerned about the project because of the environmental stigma surrounding golf courses. Griffith showed her how the UGA Golf Course works on many levels to have a low operational impact on the environment and provide opportunities for soil research and biodiversity.
Some ways the grounds team ensures its actions are environmentally friendly include hand-watering and employing wetting agents that reduce the amount of water needed at the course. The golf course is also a member of Audubon International, which focuses on implementing environmentally friendly management practices that ensure natural resources are conserved.
Berry saw that the golf course would be an excellent outlet for educating the public about pollinators and other insects.
“Any opportunity where we can reach out to the public about the importance of pollinators, I’m all for,” she said.
The bees first arrived at the golf course in March 2022, and the hive currently sits at the 10th hole on the course. However, Griffith is looking to add more.
“I would like five or six hives,” he said. “If we do that, we provide pretty good recognition to the bees.”
It has been a win-win situation for the golf course and for Berry, who enjoys reaching a new audience that may not be aware of the role they can play for bees.
“Everyone can protect pollinators,” Berry said. “You don’t have to plant a whole garden or forest to help.”