Oregon State University Extension Service

88 Rebecca Perry and Grace Cope – The Benefits of Golf Course Flower Patches Depends on Course Management (in English)


Speaker 1: From the Oregon State University Extension Service, this is Pollination, a podcast that tells the stories of researchers, land managers, and concerned citizens making bold strides to improve the health of pollinators.

I'm your host, Dr. Adoni Melopoulos, assistant professor in pollinator health in the Department of Horticulture. The golfing season is just around the corner and there are a lot of golf course superintendents who are thinking about putting pollinator habitat on their courses. We heard a great example of this in a previous episode with Stuart Meadows Golf Course down in Medford, Oregon, but also we had Dave Phipps with the Oregon chapter of the Golf Course Superintendent of America on a previous episode. This week we turn our attention to Florida to learn about some of the lessons they've learned about some of the additional benefits of putting pollinator habitat in golf courses. And we're going to be talking with Rebecca Perry and Grace Cope from the University of Florida's Landscape Entomology Program.

Also, just in case you're not interested in golf and I don't know why you're not, the lessons learned from Florida really do have applicability to a lot of urban landscapes. Alright, well, welcome to Pollination. We're at the Entomological Society of America. We've had a couple of interviews here today and I was really intrigued when I saw your presentations because you guys are working with a big piece of habitat in every city, golf courses. Why are golf courses so important when thinking about invertebrate biodiversity?

Speaker 2: Yeah, that's a great question. I'm sure we can bounce off each other. Something that I like to say a lot of the time is that golf courses are really unique islands of vegetation within these urban lands. We're from Florida especially. Golf courses, we have the most golf courses in the entire country.

Speaker 1: Oh, I bet. Over like 1,100. The weather's great. Everyone's out there a lot. But that's just indicative of the potential for that space, in urban space, green space in general. Okay, so you guys have been looking at golf courses where people have put habitat into the golf course already. What kinds of questions did you have about what that habitat is doing or how it's functioning?

Speaker 3: So we actually created these habitats ourselves. Oh, you did? We did, yes. So what we did was in the fall of 2016, we prepped these plots. We sprayed herbicide to clear the turf grass away. And we had a mixture of four wildflower species plots and a mixture of eight wildflower species plots. And we seeded these plots in the fall of 2016. And then by spring, we had full bloom. And we chose species that ensured that we would have a continuous floral nectar resource for our beneficial insects.

Speaker 1: Okay, so you had two sets of plots, one that had more flower species than the other. Okay. And you seeded these in the fall and they looked okay the next year?

Speaker 3: Yes, they looked pretty beautiful actually. So we started with a native wildflower species that was in full bloom. It dominated our plot in April and it was toadflax, which is a very beautiful flower. And then we started seeing more species emerging and flowering by May and June. And we kind of had a mixture of choreopsis and blanket flower and bee balm as well, which are all native to Florida.

Speaker 1: Okay, so you were able to accomplish this goal of getting like a season-long bloom in your plantings. Okay, what was next? What did you do with that?

Speaker 2: So I guess that it depends on the question that we each were studying within it. But in working with these wildflower plots, our next step was surveying. So we wanted to see generally the pollinators that were going to be in these plots, as well as the ground-dwelling predators. So the insects that were crawling around down there, that could be potential use for biological control of other pests on the...

Speaker 1: Some of the pollination crew will not know what... So tell us like what were some of the characters that you would see? In terms of... Of these predatory insects.

Speaker 2: Yeah, so some of the most common predatory insects on golf courses are spiders, some wolf spiders you'll see, different ground beetles, ants, lots and lots of ants.

Speaker 1: Just lots of ants. Yeah, out of control. So we saw a lot of those. Those were two of the main populations that we were looking at in terms of that predator group and also pollinators, which would be wasps, bees, and other flies and flying insects.

Speaker 3: I just want to add that we did look at the flying predators as well, which were our flies and our wasps, which do serve pollination needs and they are many of our predators.

Speaker 1: Okay, all right. So tell me about the poll... We're on pollination. We want to know about these other guys, but this pollination, what did you guys see with the pollinators?

Speaker 3: So we did see that our wildflowers attracted pollinators and we saw that our mixture of eight wildflower species, which was our highest diversity plot, attracted significantly more pollinators. So we had more...

Speaker 1: More numbers. More numbers. So yes, we had more pollinators visiting these diverse plots than the highly diverse plot and our lower diversity. We also had a turf grass plot that we also monitored and that one didn't have very many pollinators visiting it because not very many resources for them. Okay, gotcha.

Speaker 2: So it was, yeah, just the sheer presence of having that wildflower in the low diversity and the high diversity compared to the managed turf grass that we saw had that greater abundance of pollinators and more specifically within the high diversity plots. We also saw that those plots were able to support the greatest amount of native bee abundance. So getting from the more general idea of pollinators, which could include flies, for instance, the native bees were especially supported by the high diversity of an eight-wildflower mixture.

Speaker 1: Now, I remember looking at your slideshow and that you also had them established on really highly managed golf courses. But I remember when we were going, I had Dave Phipps, who we've had on a previous episode, toured me around some of the golf courses in Oregon. They're also like public courses that aren't, you know, the model for the course is like running a lot of people through and the maintenance may not be as high. Tell me a little bit about how these habitats, how they function within, you know, these different contexts, because that seems to be a real key finding. Definitely.

Speaker 2: So the courses that we were working with, we had that difference in maintenance level. So one of them was a high-maintenance, Bahia grass. I'm sorry, Bermuda grass was the high maintenance. And that was being mowed frequently about two or three times a week. It was being irrigated daily. And it was also, you were seeing that the managers were using herbicide applications to that golf course. Whereas the other courses that we saw were low maintenance, Bahia grass. And those were mowed once or twice, I think every other week, not irrigated frequently and they didn't use herbicide. So we didn't look at that more so in terms of the pollination. That was where it stemmed over into looking at predator, predator abundance. But it definitely, from what we saw was showing how important when you are going to establish diversity in terms of wildflower, understanding the maintenance level of your golf course could determine whether or not it's most beneficial or how to rate that into that maintenance plans that you're going to be having.

Speaker 1: Because it seemed to be that the most benefits could be gotten in these high maintenance areas.

Speaker 2: Right, absolutely. And I think that that's what is so interesting in terms of both of our research in that when we're talking about predator abundances, absolutely the highest maintenance golf courses should be informing their decisions around establishing these wildflowers because that's where we saw the greatest support, especially when it was that these plots were able to support the abundances beyond just the plot up to 10 meters beyond. But in terms of low-maintenance courses, it's also interesting what Becca was doing in terms of just having the sheer establishment of the wildflowers still on low-maintenance golf courses able to support the pollinator abundances and native bee abundances. All right, tell us a little bit more about that.

Speaker 3: So we actually didn't specifically look at the maintenance levels for our pollinators and our natural enemies, but across all three golf courses that we did look at, we found that having these wildflowers out there significantly increased our pollinators and our natural enemies. For all of our sites, this is looking at the flying pollinators and natural enemies, whereas Graces was looking at the ground-dwelling, and we did see that for flying insects, which are going to use these floral resources. It was a significant difference for them to have these wildflowers out there than our turf grass plots.

Speaker 1: Do you have any sense of how much pest control is actually coming from these? I know people have often talked about beetle banks as like, you know, this strategy. Golf courses are so immense that some of these habitat fragments are small. Tell us a little bit more about what we know in terms of how much spillout comes from these habitats.

Speaker 3: So are you referring to like the biological control of? Yes. So we did look at that. We created these arenas that had fall armyworms in them, and we looked at the predation of these fall armyworms by keeping them in an enclosure that excluded ground predators and excluded birds, and other vertebrate predators. So we were only looking at the flying predators. So we were able to see that our wildflower plots, just having wildflowers out there, significantly increased our biological control. So we had more predators eating these fall armyworms than our turf grass control. We didn't really see a difference between diversity levels, our high diversity and our low diversity. It didn't really seem to matter how many wildflowers were there for biological control, but having wildflowers did increase this biological control.

Speaker 1: Okay, great. This is a really great twist on things because oftentimes people think about pollinator habitat just in terms of attracting pollinators. But this is completely the way in which it has all these other potential benefits to golf course superintendents in the work. They have a lot of turf to manage, and if it can help them even just a little bit, that's worth something.

Speaker 3: Yeah, I agree. We definitely think that this could reduce maintenance on golf courses. And superintendents are very excited about the research we're doing in Florida.

Speaker 1: That's awesome. One last thing I wanted to ask, your lab is starting to look at monarchs and butterflies. Yes. You know, this is a big thing in Southern Oregon. We've had one of our first certified monarch waystations. What are some of the questions that you're interested in asking about monarchs?

Speaker 3: So yes, this is very dear to my heart. It's my master's project actually. And we want to know because turfgrass requires a lot of nitrogen inputs, so fertilizer applications. And we're concerned that monarchs, since they feed on these semiliquid plants that have toxins that are cardenolides, which monarchs do use as a defense against natural enemies, but we're worried if high nitrogen may negatively impact them by increasing the cardenolides and these milquid plants to a damaging level of the monarchs. So we're concerned that if we put milquid on these golf courses to conserve monarchs, it may actually do the opposite.

Because not a lot of research has actually looked at this, it would be interesting to see. We also want to know if maybe this does have a negative impact on them and if we could somehow create diverse plantings with semiliquid. So putting other additional wildflowers with milquid to mitigate the uptake of nitrogen that milquid is taking up. So potentially having other wildflower plants, they may take up the surrounding nitrogen in the soil and that would be less nitrogen than the milquid would uptake.

Speaker 1: Okay, so let me just ask you a quick question about this. So do we, it's been shown that a milquid plant can get enough of this. Say the name again. Cardinolides. Slow, so all our listeners at home can say it with you.

Speaker 3: Cardinolides. Cardinolides. Okay, gotcha. So do plants sometimes express toxic levels for...

Speaker 3: Yes, there has been research to show that monarchs definitely have a threshold where there are too many, there's too much of this toxin accumulated and it will either impact their survival so the caterpillars will die before they are able to become an adult monarch or they will experience a reduction in their growth development so they will grow more slowly.

Speaker 1: So, okay, so this is great. So you might be able to get some plants in there that will suck up some of that extra nitrogen that's coming off the course and then you got like super excellent monarch habitat. Yes. Great project.

Speaker 3: Yes, I'm very excited.

Speaker 1: Well, I've got a set of questions that I ask all my guests so I'm going to ask you them in a second but let's just take a quick break. Okay.

Okay, so welcome back. I ask all my guests a bunch of questions. I know from an interview I did earlier today that as graduate students, and undergraduate students, you guys are way too busy to read books. I'm going to ask you for your favorite book but I am going to ask you if you have a tool that you like to use when you're doing the work. Something really helpful for you when you're out on these golf courses trying to study insect biodiversity.

Speaker 3: So we often use pitfall traps but I think that a really neat... So what is it? A pitfall trap. Oh, yes, sorry. A pitfall trap is basically some sort of container you use that is deep enough to hold insects but it has usually a soapy water solution you make a hole in the ground and you stick these containers in the ground so that they're level with the top of the ground and ground-dwelling insects will basically walk over them and fall. Okay. And so that's how you catch these insects.

Speaker 1: But if I remember right with pitfall traps, you can't have any hint that there's something there like you need a... Is it really tricky to put in the ground?

Speaker 3: It is. So we started using these falcon tubes. Oh, what a good idea. Yeah. And so they're pretty... They have a really small circumference compared to other pitfall traps we use.

Speaker 1: I mean you used to have like a solo cup.

Speaker 3: Yeah. A lot of people use solo cups and some people I know use Tupperware which is pretty obvious and big. So we found it easier to use these falcon tubes because we're in a turf grass lab and so we have a lot of plug makers and so we literally take this thing that we call... I refer to it as our hole punch. And it's a plug maker and you just kind of stick it in the ground.

Speaker 1: And it's the same diameter as your tube. It's the same diameter as the falcon tubes and it's wonderful. And it's probably a tool that is often used in turf grass. There's an array of graduate students listening to this episode right now like, oh man, I've done it with a little spade and rocky ground and clay.

Speaker 2: Yes, it's terrible. We would say though that when you use that too, pulling the falcon tube out of that hole because it's the same structure as... There's some good suction that comes on so you definitely have to be careful so that that propylene ethyl doesn't spill over.

Speaker 1: Propylene glycol.

Speaker 3: And you can't be afraid to get your hands dirty because you gotta sometimes just grab it. You have to dig around it because like she said, the suction. So you just gotta be ready to get dirty.

Speaker 1: Okay, great. We haven't had anybody talk about a pitfall trap before. You're both pitfall trap lovers.

Speaker 2: Oh yeah. I also love pan traps. Okay. So pan traps are typical for pollinator collections and so what they are, the literature suggests that blue, yellow, and white are the most attractive for different bee species and other pollinators. So you just, they're again some good solo products. Little balls, party balls on top of a white platform that we put out, and those are really great for just kind of the quintessential pollinator collecting, surveying device. They spill in the wind though. That's a tough one. Yeah. Of course, it's tough.

Speaker 1: Yeah. Okay. All right. So we've got those. So the other last question I have for you guys is you have a favorite pollinator. Is there a pollinator species when you see it fly by? You're like, whoa, I love that little guy.

Speaker 2: Absolutely. And sometimes you can see these little green fellas flying by and sweat bees in general.

Speaker 1: But one of the most. Metallic ones. Yes. Exactly. Agapostemons, Blendons is one we find in Florida, and what it symbolizes to me is a sweat bee, not only for its efforts of pollination but also when you look under a microscope, it is to be a completely different world.

Speaker 2: That is like science fiction, fantasy, and reality all combined into one thing that you're looking at when you see these greens and yellows refracting and they look like crystals, like diamonds. I'd rather, I really, I think I'd rather have a sweat bee as a wedding ring than a diamond engagement because it just is so beautiful and it seems endless. And that's just like the endless possibility of entomology.

Speaker 1: That is wonderful. How about you?

Speaker 3: So mine's not as exciting, but it's hard to choose a favorite.

Speaker 1: It's a gray moth that you find.

Speaker 3: Yeah, no, it's the monarch butterfly. Oh, that's pretty exciting. Yeah, it's a favorite of a lot of people, I feel. But the reason why it's my favorite isn't necessarily the way it looks and what it does. And it's more so that's actually one of the insects that got me interested in entomology. When I was a kid and I found out, I always was interested in bugs and insects and I was that weird kid that would grab cockroaches.

That was me. But the monarch was really what got me interested in rearing caterpillars to adults and learning more about insects. When I started learning about monarchs and their life cycle and their migration, it just got me really excited about entomology. And so I think it's just kind of stuck with me as my favorite, even though it's difficult to choose a favorite. There are so many pollinators.

Speaker 1: I think that's a great way to choose. Those are two really great answers. The one is the wonder that when you start looking in any of these pollinating groups, you just keep uncovering more and more outlandish things.

Yes, it's true. But mine was the honeybee and so I started with honeybees and I just loved them particularly for they were my entry point. Right, yeah. Well, thanks for taking the time to talk with us here in Pollination.

Speaker 3: Well thank you for having us. Yeah.

Speaker 1: Thank you. Thank you.

This week we are joined by Rebecca Perry and Grace Cope from Dr. Adam Dale’s Landscape Entomology program at the University of Florida. Rebecca is a graduate student whose masters project focused on conserving monarch butterflies on golf course wetlands, and Grace is an undergraduate research intern. Both have been working on research investigating the benefits of flowering patches to native pollinators and beneficial insects on courses with relatively high and low levels of management.

Listen in to learn how golf courses can better serve pollinators and their habitats through curating their plants, flowers, and maintenance schedule.

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“Golf courses are these really unique islands of vegetation within these urban lands.” – Rebecca Perry

Show Notes:

  • Why golf courses are so important when thinking about invertebrate biodiversity
  • How Rebecca and Grace created and studied their pollinator habitats within golf courses
  • What the study showed and how it affected the pollinator population around these habitats
  • How different types of golf courses with different styles of maintenance work with these specialized habitats
  • How the different habitats affected the predator populations
  • What Rebecca is studying in the relationship between fertilized turf, milkweed, and monarch health

“When you are going to establish diversity in terms of wildflowers, understanding the maintenance level of your golf course could determine whether or not it’s most beneficial, or how to write it into your maintenance plans.” – Grace Cope

Links Mentioned:

Source URL: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/podcast/pollination-podcast/88-rebecca-perry-grace-cope-benefits-golf-course-flower-patches-depends