Buzzing about bees

By |  October 7, 2016 0 Comments

I was recently invited by Bayer to an event at Cantigny Golf Club, Wheaton, Ill. The event was about the importance of bees in our world and the possible benefits for superintendents who maintain hives.

This was my first time on a course with a superintendent who dabbles in beekeeping, but I think it would be hard to find one who better represents this group than our host, Scott Witte, CGCS at Cantigny.


Witte has managed the 27-hole Cantigny GC for 22 years but all 500 acres of the property have been an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary since 1993. In that time Cantigny has become a haven for various birds, bats and fish, but bees are a recent addition.

“I consider myself an ambassador for golf’s environmental opportunities,” said Witte. “I (want to) encourage other golf courses to create great habitat and diverse ecosystems that promote the health of wildlife and pollinators.”

Witte said a friend once asked him why he wasn’t keeping bees. He considered it and realized they seemed like a natural fit. He never would’ve imaged what happened next.

“The first time I set up (a hive) it taught me something about the strange and powerful allure of the honey bee,” said Witte. “What I can tell you is our customers and golfers often times want to know more about when the honey is going to be available than how fast the greens are.”

Witte now has six hives on the property; four on an area called “Honey Bee Hill” and two more at another location. A group of volunteers help Cantigny’s superintendent maintain the hives and collect from them twice a year, once during the late summer and again in the late fall. The honey and wax, gathered to make lip balm and candles, is sold in the clubhouse at a premium rate that Witte said raises money for the course’s Audubon expenses.

Beekeeping has become a passion for Witte. In 2010 he founded The Bee Barometer Project to educate superintendents and the general public on the honey bee.

“I always wanted to be a part of the solution, not the problem,” Witte said.

Witte added that even though superintendents use pesticides, golf courses can coexist side-by-side with bees. The Bee Barometer Project’s motto is “If you have healthy golf environments, that should foster healthy honey bees.”

Becky Langer, Bayer Bee Care program manger, presented information on the current state of bee and pollinator health in the United States. Langer said pollinators account for $15 billion of the U.S. economy.

She added that Bayer’s Bee Care program started in 2012, but the company has been involved in the bee business since the 1940s.

One of Bayer’s recent programs to promote pollinator health is the Feed a Bee initiative. The goal was to increase food for honey bees and other pollinators by growing 50 million flowers across the United States. The campaign launched in 2015 and, through collaboration, surpassed its 50 million goal in just 11 weeks, according to a press release.

Also in 2015, Bayer started its Healthy Hives 2020 program, a major new initiative focused on finding tangible solutions that will improve the health of honey bee colonies in the United States in the next five years.

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