5 Steps to Creating Pollinator-Friendly Habitat on Your Golf Course

— Written By

Dr. Danesha Seth Carley and Dr. Terri Billeisen | 1/13/2019 | Turfgrass Council of North Carolina

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Insects are the most common and abundant pollinators in the world. Although bees may be the most well-known insect pollinators, there are many other insect species, including butterflies, moths, wasps, flies and beetles, which also play an important role in plant pollination. Due to increased interest in pollinator and wildlife communities in turfgrass environments, we are conducting a study examining how the implementation of pollinator-friendly habitat on established golf courses impact pollinator populations. In the spring and summer of 2018, we set out across the state, sampling for pollinators in managed turfgrass environments to determine which insects were already present prior to establishing refuge areas the following season. This fall we returned to these sites to plant pollinator-friendly seed mixes. After some trial and error, we have identified a few key things to know prior to establishing pollinator habitat. Our five summarized key steps to creating pollinator-friendly habitat on your golf course are as follows:Image of a pollinator-friendly habitat

  1. Identify suitable location and prep the site
  • Select a site on your golf course that will be visible to members but is out of the way of traffic or errant golf balls. For our research, we selected areas lining cart paths and natural rough areas, especially around tees and along tree lines. If you have a lot of trees on your course, be sure to choose a site that gets at least 6–8 hours of dire5 S ct sunlight a day.
    • Eliminate plant competition by removing shrubs, small trees, and unwanted plants either by hand cultivation or selective herbicide application. If a controlled spring burn is an option for your site, it can help to eliminate brush cover and undesirable weeds.
    • After all weed roots are dead, switch to shallow cultivations timed to eliminate freshly germinated weed seedlings – generally two weeks after the first cultivation. If you are planting your large site to pollinator-friendly seeds in the fall, use a harrow or drag to produce a smooth, clodfree seed bed. If your soil is subject to erosion, consider deferring planting until spring and first plant a winter cover crop in the previous fall.
    • If necessary, a rototiller can be used to break up the ground and soften the soil. It is important to “till” only as deep as necessary to remove old roots. Four to six inches deep should do the trick. Drag the area to break up any large clumps. After a final dragging, the soil will be ready to plant.

See the four additional steps to creating a pollinator-friendly habitat on your golf course.