Scott Witte stands next to a honeybee hive in a wooded area at Cantigny Golf Club. Witte, the certified golf course superintendent at the course in Wheaton, Illinois, is unfazed while bees swarm around him and the hive. He wears no protective gear, but he does don a smile as he talks about “the strange and powerful allure” of pollinating critters.
“This is a passion of mine,” says Witte, who is in his 22nd year as the club’s superintendent. “It’s something I’ve become smitten with. Honeybees get a bad rap because yellow jackets, wasps and hornets can be so nasty. Honeybees only care about pollinating their next flowers.”
At Cantigny, a 27-hole public course, Witte has added “beekeeper” to his agronomic duties. He has turned Cantigny into a haven for honeybees, not just by maintaining six domesticated hives, but by introducing several acres of native prairie areas to Cantigny to attract honeybees and other pollinating insects. Witte calls his endeavor the “Bee Barometer Project.”
In late September, on one of summer’s final days, Witte provided a tour of the course to reporters to educate them on the important plight of honeybees and why native prairie areas are vital for golf courses. The event, called “Feed a Bee,” was sponsored by the Bayer Bee Care Program, which was established to find solutions to bee health challenges.
Witte showed reporters several native areas on the course that are home to honeybees and other pollinators before showcasing his hives, which he began in 2010. Later, reporters were taken to Le Jardin, a restaurant on the premises, where they participated in a cooking demonstration featuring honey from Witte’s hives that are used as an ingredient in cooking various foods.
Witte, in fact, has turned his honeybee enterprise into a revenue center to fund his environmental programs, including the operation’s status as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Bottled honey and lip balm from Witte’s hives are sold in Cantigny’s pro shop.