Golf Course Management

FEB 2016

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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38 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 02.16 Making a way for monarchs From its hillside entrance speckled with purple conefower and other pollinator pleas - ers to the 26 bluebird houses tucked through- out the grounds, Gustin Golf Course has distinguished itself as a multifaceted na - ture-friendly haven. The 18-hole public course, operated by the University of Missouri in the heart of Columbia, Mo., frst achieved Certifed Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary status in 1997 and has maintained the classifcation ever since. So for Class A superintendent Isaac Breuer, restoring out-of-play areas on the 150-acre property to native fora to support wildlife and pollinators was a logical step, and one he began pursuing about fve years ago. It wasn't until last June, though, when he attended a sym - posium on monarch butterfies presented at the university, that Breuer discovered he could assist these imperiled insects with just a simple addition to the golf course landscape. "I learned monarch populations have de - clined 90 percent in the past 20 years, and a big cause is the lack of milkweed grow - ing for them," says Breuer, a 17-year member of GCSAA, who is in his 20th year at Gus - tin GC. "It got me thinking that if we could plant patches of milkweed on golf courses all throughout the monarch migration pattern, it could really help. Every golf course in the country has an area that's out of play that they mow that they don't need to mow — even just a quarter of an acre — that could be planted in milkweed for monarchs." The monarch butterfy's annual 3,000- mile round-trip migration is a true marvel of the natural world. Every fall, populations head south to overwinter in Mexico, then return stateside in spring and stay through summer, during which time they reproduce. Because of the length of the monarch's journey — most other butterfies never travel outside of about 20 miles — these futterers need to stay fueled up via nectar-rich plants throughout the trip, and during their fight back north, monarchs re - quire milkweed, the only plant their larvae eat. Though their plight doesn't get the press that bees' receives, monarchs play a role as pol - linators in their own right, and they're also an important food source for small mammals, birds and insects, says Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, an in - ternational nonproft dedicated to insect con- servation. While such facts make the mon- arch's downturn particularly worrisome, the good news, Black says, is that these dazzling crea - tures, though delicate of build, are actually quite tough. "They're very resilient, and if we provide the habitat, they use it," Black says. "Anybody can take action — a golf course, a homeowner — by putting in and maintaining a high-quality habitat." The ingredients necessary to that habitat are native milkweed and at least four nectar-pro - ducing fowers that, together, will furnish nectar from spring through fall. Milkweed is a perennial that takes about two years to establish, but after it gets going, it's quite hardy. Choosing milk - weeds native to your area limits the likelihood that plants will become invasive, Black says, and because native species are adapted to local con - ditions, they typically grow better. Monarch refuges should be located in sunny areas. Although a larger space is more likely to attract monarchs, Black says any size is benef - cial, as these butterfies can often sleuth out even small swaths of milkweed and sustenance. Black advises superintendents to invest time in prepar - ing the site beforehand. If weeds haven't been adequately eradicated, a monarch habitat may again become overrun with them in a few years. Superintendents should also try to allow some (environment) time to pass before developing a site where in- secticides have been used. These preliminary considerations will promote a prolifc and easy- to-manage habitat for the long term. Pockets of native milkweed already existed around Gustin GC, but Breuer wanted to in - corporate more, and has designated an out-of- play acre between the 10th, 11th and 18th holes that he hopes will eventually become a certifed Monarch Waystation, a recognition given by the nonproft education, conservation and research program Monarch Watch. (At least 28 North American golf courses are home to a certifed Monarch Waystation.) The transformation will get underway at the end of this month, with a group of elementary school students visiting to help plant the native-milkweed-and-fower seed mix, which Breuer will supplement with milkweed transplants. "As part of the university, we're also a learning institution," says Breuer, who hopes the students will return in the years ahead to see the plot's progress, fostering a rela - tionship with nature and with the golf course. "The unique thing about golf courses is that they have professional staff who really under - stand what they're doing, so they can success- fully manage these habitats for monarchs and become part of the solution," says Black. "We'd love to see more of that." In return? Both superintendents and golfers will enjoy the company of these winged won - ders, year after year. For more information and to fnd a source for native milkweed and nectar-rich plants, visit the Xerces Society website at www.xerces. org , and the Monarch Watch website at www. . Megan Hirt is GCM 's managing editor. Megan Hirt Twitter: @GCM_Magazine Cultivating native habitat that includes milkweed and various nectar sources will create an oasis where monarchs can reproduce in spring and summer and stop for much-needed nourishment as they travel south in fall. Shown here is swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). Photo © Shutterstock/Nancy Bauer

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