Bees Need Operation Pollinator

Each year, we celebrate Bees’ Needs Week, a Defra initiative to raise awareness of bees and other pollinators, much like Syngenta’s Operation Pollinator initiative! From 13 to 19 July, Bees’ Needs shared positive examples and ways in which everyone can continue to help bees and pollinators online. Check out @DefraNature to gather some top tips for the golf course and home for your own Operation Pollinator project.

For starters, here are five simple actions you can take to help pollinators and make sure that their populations are sustained:

  • Grow more native flowers, shrubs and trees
  • Let areas grow wild
  • Cut grass less often (where possible!)
  • Don’t disturb insect nest and hibernation spots
  • Think carefully about pesticide use

As we are three weeks away from the 7 August deadline for entries to Syngenta’s Operation Pollinator Award 2021, we thought it would be great to take a look at the amazing #OperationPollinator projects that you have been sharing with us so far this year. It all helps to support Bees’ Needs and hopefully inspire others to join in with the Operation Pollinator movement.

First up, we’ve loved seeing photos (almost daily!) from Operation Pollinator 2020 winner Richard Mullen of the numerous nectar-rich patches of wildflowers throughout Banchory Golf Club. It has been so interesting seeing the change in species through the spring and summer months, and now bright displays of lady’s bedstraw, St John’s wort, bird’s foot trefoil, harebell and heather are blooming in out of play areas.

Out of play area of wildflowers at Banchory Golf Club captured by Richard Mullen.

Of course, it’s not all about wildflowers, often people forget how important grasses can be for invertebrates. Shaun Cunningham, at Mortonhall Golf Club in Edinburgh, has been sharing photos of the wide swathes of conservation rough that have recently been created. Bent grasses are the larval foodplant of gatekeeper, meadow brown, small heath, Scotch argus and wall butterflies. Fescues, meadow-grasses, cock’s-foot and many other grasses are also important larval foodplants for a range of butterflies and moths.

Hesketh Golf Club have been astounded by the wildflowers appearing in their deep ecology roughs. Ribwort plantain, meadow buttercup, and northern marsh orchid adorn out of play areas and pond margins – impressive!

Just one of many pollinator habitats at Hesketh Golf Club taken by the greenkeeping team. 

Jon Keepen, Head of Conservation at Cumberwell Park, has been busy capturing photos of the extensive wildflower meadows and the invertebrates that are supported by them. There’s no wonder Cumberwell supports so many insectivorous bird species too!

Marbled white butterfly foraging on red clover. Photo taken by Jon Keepen.

Jumping over the Irish Sea to Lahinch Golf Club in County Clare where bee orchid, a declining species in Ireland, has made an appearance. It is so uncommon that in Northern Ireland bee orchid is a protected species under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.

Interestingly, the bee orchid is self-pollinated in the UK and Ireland as the right bee species does not live here. As a result of self-pollination, sometimes you may spot some freakish, alien-like forms …

Bee orchid at Lahinch Golf Club.

One important wildflower that we’ve been seeing a lot of this year is kidney vetch, the now well-known foodplant of the small blue butterfly thanks to Dundonald LinksNectar Network project. Spot it alongside the bee orchid at Lahinch (above), at Dundonald (of course) and forming carpets of yellow at previous Operation Pollinator winners Corhampton Golf Club in the South Downs.

Iestyn Carpenter, Golf Course Superintendent at Corhampton Golf Club, shared this snap of the astonishing kidney vetch growth in an area of the golf course.

Honeybees are well-supported at possibly hundreds of golf clubs now by bee hives, bumblebees are given shelter on the majority of courses too, but solitary bees, like the early mining bee pictured at Banchory Golf Club, can sometimes be left behind.

Banchory 2
An early mining bee enjoying a dandelion at Banchory Golf Club, taken by Richard Mullen. 

Stewart Duff, Course Manager at Gullane Golf Club has been showing off a new sand waste area which provides excellent nesting habitat for solitary bees, as well as basking opportunities for butterflies. We are seeing more and more of these habitats being created at both links and heathland courses where bare ground is an important component of coastal and heathland mosaics.

Bare sand habitat at Gullane Golf Club captured by Stewart Duff.

Feeling inspired? We hope so.

Golf courses around the UK and Ireland are doing their part to conserve pollinators, so will you join them and be part of Operation Pollinator too?

If you’d like to be part of Syngenta’s Operation Pollinator Initiative click here and to enter for the 2021 Operation Pollinator Award please click here to apply, and maybe apply for the Golf Environment Awards too whilst you’re there. Entries close at midnight on Friday 7 August 2020.