Downriver GC Starts Honeybee Restoration Program

By | June 19th, 2017

The Spokane, Wash. course has transformed a little over an acre into a foraging area for pollinators, and expects to have wildflowers, a tomato garden and a pumpkin patch become permanent features of its sixth and 16th holes. The club has also reduced pesticide usage by 60 percent through use of a “compost tea” that combats a common grass fungus.

 

Golfers teeing up at the sixth and 16th holes of Downriver Golf Course in Spokane, Wash. will watch their balls soar past pumpkins, tomatoes and thousands of wildflowers in the near future, The Spokesman-Review of Spokane reported.

Three wildflower patches, seeded with 25 species, plus a pumpkin and tomato garden, will soon spring up under the supervision of Head Golf Course Superintendent Mike Green, The Spokesman-Review reported.

“We’ve got all this green space,” said Green, adding that a significant amount of the Downriver property is not occupied by the golf course.

All of the new features will add to the course in their own ways, Green added. But at the end of the day, their primary function is to support a cornerstone of the ecosystem that has been threatened in recent years.

After applying for a grant earlier this year through the Feed a Bee program created by Bayer CropScience. Green has transformed a little over an acre of Downriver’s approximately 120 acres into a foraging area for pollinators, and specifically honeybees, The Spokesman-Review reported.

The western honeybee, Apis mellifera, is a threatened species, Will Olson, Downriver GC’s beekeeper, told The Spokesman-Review.

The Spokane Park Board approved a proposal earlier this year to repurpose some of Downriver’s land, and Bayer awarded money for the project, The Spokesman-Review reported. But Green said the Park Board planned to support the honeybee repopulation effort even without the $2,500 grant that Downriver received from Bayer, as one of more than 50 recipients from 31 states.

“I don’t see a downside to any of it,” Green told The Spokesman-Review.

“You hear that golf courses use a lot of water,” he said, before noting that people don’t know that Downriver “supplies oxygen to 150,000 residents in the area.” Green calculated this number using data from a study published by University of Michigan, which states that 25 square feet of healthy turf produces enough oxygen for one person every day, The Spokesman-Review reported.

The beehives sit slightly removed from the Downriver course, near the tomato and pumpkin patch, The Spokesman-Review reported. And though the bees pollinate over a two-mile radius, the course has not had an issue yet with bees interfering with games or stinging golfers.

The honeybees concern themselves with pollination, not aggression, Green explained. Olson added that he hasn’t been stung at Downriver at all during the four or five times he has come to check on the hives since the end of May.

Olson provided a beehive of Carniolan honeybees, a hive of Italian honeybees and a hive of honeybees of unknown heritage, the last of which Olson said he rescued. The hives are colorful, Olson said, because bees have poor eyesight. The color helps them distinguish between the hives and return to the correct one.

The golf course plans to harvest the honey, and is considering bottling it with a Downriver label to be sold in the pro shop, The Spokesman-Review reported.

In addition, harvested tomatoes likely will become ingredients at the restaurant on site, and the golf course superintendent also has big hopes for the pumpkins.

Green wants to partner with schools and arrange a way for children to participate in the pumpkin harvest, which will produce between 200 and 400 pumpkins this year, The Spokesman-Review reported. He will also donate to SNAP, a nonprofit organization that provides services for low-income people. And, of course, pumpkins will decorate the course around Halloween.

The Spokesman-Review’s report noted that beekeeping isn’t the only environmentally friendly practice in place at Downriver. The course has also reduced its pesticide usage by about 60 percent, according to Green, by making use of “compost tea,” a practice that Green said has been used in England but is relatively new to the U.S.

Downriver uses a California-based compost called “Boogie Brew” that is steeped in de-chlorinated water to make a “tea” that is rich with healthy microbes that fight fungi and diseases that plague plants, The Spokesman-Review reported.

The tea is then sprayed over the course, helping to combat a common grass fungus like Fusarium, commonly known as pink snow mold.

When a course stops getting infected, Green noted, fungicides no longer need to be used. Downriver has been “able to stretch out our frequencies of fungicide usage” because of the compost tea, he said.

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