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Seeing is bee-lieving

It might be difficult for some to fully understand, but the sound made by thousands of buzzing honeybees is music to Scott Witte's ears.

Raising bees is a labor of love for Scott Witte, CGCS.For the past seven years, Witte has implemented bee-conservation efforts at Cantigny Golf, the Chicago-area club where he has been director of agronomy for the past two decades. His efforts, that include the Bee Barometer Project, take aim at helping local bees rebound from a population-depleting phenomena known as Colony Collapse Disorder and incorporates them into an overall environmental program to enhance Cantigny's oneness with nature.
His efforts are beginning to gain traction. Last year, Witte and Bayer Environmental Science hosted an educational event at Cantigny, and recently the company named Witte as the recipient of The Bayer Bee Care Community Leadership Award. The award includes a $6,000 grant to continue his bee outreach work. The Robert R. McCormick Foundation, a non-profit entity that owns the property on which Cantigny is located, is giving Witte a 2-for-1 matching grant, boosting the total to $18,000. 
Witte's work in bee conservation provides a safe and healthy environment for bees and aligns with the property's environmental profile. The course has been a certified Audubon Sanctuary since 1993.
Cantigny Park is located on the grounds of the former home of Chicago Tribune magnate Robert R. McCormick, who died in 1955. Prior to his death, McCormick operated an experimental farm on the grounds, and the Tribune regularly published articles on the subject. Since his death, the foundation named in McCormick's honor has operated the property as a horticultural classroom designed to provide educational and recreational opportunities for the people of Illinois.
Part of that effort now is Witte's Bee Barometer Project that promotes a healthy environment for bees and provides snapshot of the overall health and diversity of the surrounding environment at Cantigny Golf and Cantigny Park.
Scott Witte conducted a beekeeping Webinar in 2015. Click on the image above to view it.He also performs outreach, teaching others about bees and bee care and serving as an on-call expert to remove (and rescue) hives throughout the local community. In 2015, he conducted a webinar on bee care on TurfNet entitled Beekeeping 101. Click here to watch it.
Witte will receive the award Jan. 24 at Seven Bridges Golf Club in Woodridge, Illinois at a combined fundraiser for the Wee One Foundation and the Midwest Area of Golf Course Superintendents.
The bee population, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, dropped steadily from 1989 to 2008, but has been on the rise ever since thanks to Witte and others like him. There were 2.66 million commercial bee colonies in 2015, which is just slightly less than the 2.7 million in 2014 that represented a 20-year high, according to the USDA.


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