How Does One Golf Course Superintendent Use Bees

By UK Time News, posted on

Isaac Breuer, manager of the AL Gustin golf course, examines one of the hive plates to check the bee’s progress. (Don Shrubshell / Columbia Daily Tribune)

If not for golf carts and golfers, the University of Missouri’s AL Gustin Golf Course might be called the AL Gustin Nature Center.

The natural aspect of the golf course is an important part of its identity, as are the bees, said golf course superintendent Isaac Breuer.

There are about 60,000 bees in two hives located away from the route – 30,000 in each hive. Saturday is National Bee Day.

A third beehive died over the winter, likely a victim of the extreme cold of February, Breuer said. He said he would like to increase the number of beehives, which he installed in 2016.

“We check for mites in the fall,” he said.

Dressed in his bee protection suit, Breuer carefully removed a few outer frames from the hive on Thursday, one at a time. It was cloudy Thursday morning and Breuer said the bees can become irritable in cloudy weather.

He gave instructions for a quick retreat, should it become necessary. The bees remained calm as he worked.

“They are pretty cold right now,” he said.

The frames showed white combs, newly made by worker bees.

“They are going to start making honey,” Breuer said. “It’s a cool comb they’re building.”

Some years he collects the honey and sells it in the pro shop, but there will be no honey harvest this year, to ensure that the bees have enough food during the winter.

How did he learn to be a beekeeper?

“I watched a lot of YouTube videos,” he said. He also sought the advice of beekeeping golfers.

There are dangers, he said.

“If they get wet in the winter, they die,” he said.

Linda Parker wrote an article “All-In-One Beekeeping for the Bees” which says bees attract positive attention from golf country club members, golfers, employees, and residents in nearby neighborhoods

There is a mouse guard at the bottom of the hives, to protect against another potential danger.


Barn swallows roam near ground level on the course. They will be gone, south, in the next week, Breuer said. The purple swallows have already migrated south. There are hollow gourds and purple martin houses on the course.

There are also 26 blue birdhouses for the state bird, resulting in 3,200 bluebirds fledging since 1995.

Several areas of the course are planted with wildflowers, which Breuer calls pollinator patches.

“We’ve created a bunch of different ecosystems here,” Breuer said.

One plot contained 20-25 different native wildflowers. The bees in the hives have collected pollen from some of them.

Breuer pointed out common milkweed and butterfly milkweed, purple coneflowers, compass plants, goldenrod, and other wildflowers.

“When one thing starts to fade, another starts to bloom,” he said.

The plots save the golf course $400 an acre in watering and equipment wear.

Another area he pointed out was native prairie and clearing.

One of the plots looked like the area looked 400 to 500 years ago, he said.

The golf course in 1997 became the first college golf course to be certified by Audubon International as a cooperative sanctuary. The City of Columbia presented the 2019 Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement Award.

Breuer thanked team members Jim Knoesel, Eric Acton, and Aaron Weir for their help with the course.

The golf course isn’t the only place on campus with bees. There is an apiary – an apiary – in the Eckles Butterfly Garden near Eckles Hall. Sustain Mizzou Beekeeping, a member of a student environmental group, takes care of the beehives. Sustain Mizzou becomes a full-fledged campus program.

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