Cantigny GC’s Honey Bees Create Quite a Buzz

By | July 14th, 2017

The club’s “Bee Barometer Project” is aimed at changing public perception about golf courses’ roles in conservation and land management.

Cantigny Golf Club, Wheaton, Ill., owned by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and managed by KemperSports, is home to an industry-leading honeybee health program, led by Cantigny’s Director of Agronomy Scott Witte.

Witte, who has added “beekeeper” to his agronomic duties, has turned Cantigny into a haven for honeybees not just by maintaining a number of domesticated hives but by introducing several acres of native prairie areas to attract honeybees and other pollinating insects. He also uses the bees as an educational tool for golfers.

Dubbed the Bee Barometer Project, and founded by Witte in 2010, his mission is to change public perception about golf courses’ roles in conservation and land management, reports Feedstuffs, the animal agriculture’s leading source of news.

In doing so, he has converted non-play areas of courses into diverse ecosystems where honeybees and other wildlife can thrive. And his Bee Barometer Project provides assurances that the course environment is indeed healthy.

Witte received the Bayer Bee Care Community Leadership Award in 2016 for his efforts. The award, sponsored by the Bayer North American Bee Care Program, was initially created to distinguish individuals who use their interest in honeybees to benefit a community and has since evolved to recognize the important partnership between beekeepers and other environmental stakeholders in their local community.

As a recipient of the award, Witte received a $6,000 grant to be used to bring his bee care program to other golf courses in the area. Additionally, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation matched the grant two to one to set up a pollinator fund of $18,000 that is being utilized to help promote diverse ecosystems on golf courses throughout the Chicago area, reports Feedstuffs.

Involving the community is another tool that helps Witte achieve his mission at Cantigny GC, reports Feedstuffs. Local Boy Scouts were involved in planting these new prairie plants at the golf course.

As a side venture aimed at further funding his efforts, Witte has turned his honeybee enterprise into a revenue center to fund his environmental programs, including the operation’s status as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. (See Creating a Buzz.) Bottled honey and lip balm from Witte’s hives are sold in Cantigny’s pro shop.