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Pollinators and communities bee-line to Operation Pollinator plots

Across the country, manicured golf courses are beginning to feature more pollinator habitats than ever, bringing renewed vitality to populations of bees and other pollinators. Operation Pollinator, from Syngenta, supports these efforts by providing golf course managers with resources they need to establish and maintain successful pollinator habitats. The program uses a course’s valuable green space to create a tangible ecological impact and, as many participants have discovered, helps attract more than just bees and butterflies.

Tony Gustafson, assistant golf course superintendent for TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois, believes the program supports a dual effort – protecting local pollinators while educating and engaging with the championship course’s community.

After seeing successful Operation Pollinator plots blossom across social platforms, Gustafson’s team recognized potential to support and bring attention to wildlife and native areas on the course, a goal set by the PGA Tour and TPC Network headquarters. Just one month into prepping the 15,000 square-foot Operation Pollinator site, TPC Deere Run hosted field trips from a local seventh grade class and an elementary school. The children were thrilled to tour the plot, help plant pollinator-attracting flowers, learn about the importance of pollinators and see how golf courses can help protect the environment.

“The general public might not know what it takes to grow some of the food we eat or what role pollinators have in that process,” Gustafson said. “The kids were interested in the presentation as well as the teachers. I’m sure they even learned something too.”

TPC Deere Run’s Operation Pollinator plot also helps make space for additional conservation efforts. Nearby the plot sits a bird house, host to a growing family of bluebirds. Local high school students toured the plot in participation with Audubon’s BioBlitz, a program that brings together people who love nature and appreciate its diversity, and experienced firsthand the possibilities a golf course provides for enhancing ecosystems. Gustafson says educational visits like these set TPC Deere Run apart from other courses.

“Our company supports many environmental initiatives across our network of clubs and it is always pleased to see a project that incorporates community involvement as part of the process,” Gustafson said. “Our members and guests are really excited to see what we have done with the land so far, and we’ve heard nothing but good comments about our efforts and results from Operation Pollinator.”


Operation Pollinator flowers at the TPC Deere Run plot in Silvis, Illinois.

Sean O’Brien, certified golf course superintendent and director of grounds for the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club in Sarasota, Florida, a Marriott Golf property, has also used his Operation Pollinator habitat to help engage the local community and protect pollinator populations.

After planting three Operation Pollinator plots on the coastal luxury property in 2013, O’Brien has witnessed bee populations flourish so much that he now maintains four beehives on the grounds, using the honey in signature cocktails and spa treatments at the resort.

“It’s all been positive,” O’Brien said about guest’s reception to Operation Pollinator on the property. “Our members often approach our staff and ask what we are doing for the environment. They want to ensure the property is being taken care of in a sustainable way. What better way to illustrate safety and sustainability than to observe the pollinators that have made their home here?”

O’Brien is sometimes asked to speak to local students and children about bees and their role on Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club grounds. During his classroom visits, he brings a bee box the children can decorate with painted thumb prints. It’s their way of becoming a part of the positive impact that the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club makes and showing support for their new pollinator friends.

To Gustafson and O’Brien, participation in Operation Pollinator represents how important protecting natural spaces and pollinator populations is to their golf courses and local communities.

“It’s the responsibility of management at every golf course to protect and enhance its land and local environment,” said Gustafson. “On every course, there’s a piece of property, whether it’s a back lot, ditch, fence line, or even the clubhouse grounds, where you can do something to help your local pollinators flourish.  Additionally, you can bring people in like we have to help with the project, get the community engaged, and show them an example of being environmentally responsible.”

 “We talk about doing the right thing environmentally,” O’Brien added. “Operation Pollinator is an example of that.”

For more information about how you can get engaged with Operation Pollinator, visit GreenCastOnline.com/OperationPollinator.

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