10 April 2023

What’s All The Buzz About?
Bees and Golf At Apes Hill Barbados

‘We started our bee initiative programme in June of 2022 and it’s with a goal in mind of trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible and sustainable.’ - Phillip Williams, Apes Hill Beekeeper
A cluster of bees swarm by a man-made wooden bee hive just off the golf course at Apes Hill Barbados.

When we designed Apes Hill, the desire to protect our surrounding wildlife was at the centre of the process. Ensuring that we do not disrupt the natural environment, our elevated golf course has been carefully nestled around the bushes of bright flowers, animal habitats and towering fruit trees that were there long before we broke ground.

 

As part of our efforts to not only sustain, but also improve the Bajan ecosystem, we have set up 30 beehives on our golf course. Bees have had a turbulent history in the Caribbean, but they are central to ecosystems and maintaining our planet. And one of the best places for beehives to thrive is a golf green. The old model of environmentally-damaging golf courses is outdated - golf is in a process of evolution, working with nature rather than against it. Here’s why, and how, we sustain a relationship between honey production, bee conservation and golf at Apes Hill Barbados.

 

 

The Sustainability Of Bees

As the unsung heroes behind the vivacity and brilliance of Barbados, bees are responsible for the pollination and reproduction of a dazzling array of wildflowers, trees and fauna. 

 

And it isn’t just about the striking beauty of our island, either. 

 

This process also fosters thriving ecosystems that in turn, nurture a diverse array of animal species, enabling an intricate tapestry of life. Nearly 90% of wild plants and 75% of leading global crops are dependent on pollination, and bees are also an indicator species for environmental health, as the presence of them in any given area proves the health of that area as a whole (according to Ola Jennerston writing for WWF https://www.wwf.org.uk/learn/fascinating-facts/bees). A flourishing biodiversity lies at the heart of all healthy ecosystems, which also serves as the foundation for agricultural productivity, food security, and thus, our economic systems.

 

 

An up close photo of small orange flowers blooming on the Apes Hill golf course.
 Apes Hill golf course under a blue sky, with palm trees in the foreground, undulating terrain, and a distant forest of trees.

A Threat To Bees In The Caribbean

So when the Varroa parasite outbreak in 2003 destroyed three-quarters of the honeybee population in Barbados, the island was devastated (Thomas Mozer 2003 in ‘Beekeeping in Barbados - Preliminary Status Assessment’)

 

Since then, across the Caribbean, there has been a growing movement to protect the bee population. The Barbados National Conservation Commission, Caribbean Beekeeping Congress (CBC), and the Association of Caribbean Beekeepers' Organization are among the key players driving these endeavours, diligently working to safeguard the future of these vital pollinators. Protecting our environment is a community effort, and so the National Conservation Commission now offers beekeeping classes for both young and adult enthusiasts at their headquarters here in Barbados. 

 

Through a harmonious blend of education, awareness, and collaboration, it is heartwarming to see the Caribbean uniting to ensure the survival and prosperity of our beloved bees, securing a brighter and more sustainable future for both ourselves and the planet.

 

 

Bee Conservation Through Golf

‘If you have healthy golf environments, that should foster healthy honey bees’ - motto of The Bee Barometer Project set up in 2010.

 

Contrary to the common narrative, golf recreation doesn’t have to exist at a cost to our environment, and to this end, we can’t overlook the bees–they are crucial to pollination of fruit and flowers and they too have their own place in our story. With nature relying on a vast network for survival, golf courses can play a crucial role in protecting species of conservation concern, providing connectivity between priority habitats.

 

In fact, it’s baffling to us that not all golf courses are designed to protect and uphold their surrounding wildlife. The expansive green spaces and diverse flora on golf greens present an unmissable opportunity to protect thriving bee populations, presenting a unique opportunity to harmonise luxury and environmental stewardship, transforming them from simply recreational havens to vital pollinator sanctuaries.

 

 

How We've Done It At Apes Hill Barbados

Here at Apes Hill, we are showing how golfing and sustainability can exist alongside one another in a mutually-beneficial relationship. One of the first things we wanted to do when we moved in this new direction of golf course maintenance was to see how we could support the bee community in Barbados.

 

With a huge increase in education surrounding bees and a number of very talented people on the island, our bee initiative programme has flourished. We’ve created a home for 30 beehives, with the aim to have 100 in a years’ time. 

 

Pollinators require flowers as their source of nutrition, and the masses of greenery that golf courses provide to plant flowers around is the perfect environment for bees to do so. Bees can also increase the yields of fruit production, which is perfect for the hundreds of trees planted around Apes Hill. The yield of a coconut tree can be increased by 30% with the help of bees alone! This process also shrinks the footprint of the turf managed for play and therefore reduces the need for irrigation, fertilisation, and other applications of those areas, another step toward better environmental welfare. Obviously, there are wild bees native to the environment, but by adding hives, pollination can flourish and our farm-to-fork efforts rapidly increase. And this only makes our golfing environments look even more beautiful too!

 

As our golf course was designed around the existing Bajan wildlife, rather than removing it, part of our efforts includes removing the wild hives already living on the course and moving them to safer areas. 90% of the hives are on the Farmland on the East Coast by holes 13 and 14, as bees are more prone to fly east to collect more nectar. There’s also the added bonus that these hives are positioned far away from our golfers, behind tees or lakes. There’s no need to worry about being stung, or that a buzzing friend will interrupt your game.

 

When it comes to beekeeping, the process can be very relaxed with some beekeepers who maintain their hives only every six months. But here at Apes Hill we tend to them weekly, with inspections to ensure the laying patterns are correct, the bees are fed sufficiently and that enough pollen is being collected. 

 

We’re far from finished, but we’re one step ahead. Find out more here about our sustainable golf course design.

Beekeeper in protective gear places a water container into a beehive at Apes Hill Barbados.
A beekeeper in protective clothing holds up one of the man-made hives at Apes Hill with bees crawling on it.

Can I Buy Honey From The Bees At Apes Hill?

Of course—after all, freshly produced honey is the best type to enjoy! We are committed to fostering a community and creating a truly farm-to-fork approach.

 

 

Our mission here at Apes Hill is outlined by Ed Paskins, our Golf Superintendent:

‘The ultimate goal here is to be producing all the honey requirements we need for Apes Hill development l and also being able to have some of the honey going out into the community as well.’

 

 

By providing space for bees on our golf course, we not only support our environment, but we get a sweet return too! It’s a double reward that makes it even more of an obvious choice to combine bee conservation with golfing.

 

 

 

An up close shot of a bee in honeycomb at Apes Hill Barbados.
A view of a male hand holding a pot of fresh honey produced at Apes Hill Barbados.

Come And See For Yourself At Apes Hill Barbados

When you buy a property at Apes Hill or choose us as your destination for a golfing holiday, you’ll not only be helping sustainable development in Barbados generally, but also be supporting the growth and recovery of the bee population—and you’ll get to sample some of the Caribbean’s best honey on your toast on in your tea!

 

 

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