Many of you do not get to see our incredible white sea of birds but Seagulls take over the Heritage course during the night time hours in the spring, summer and fall. They occupy the property to feast on earthworms within the fairway soil profile. When we enter the course on our maintenance equipment before day-break they fly off towards the lake shore. Seagulls are a biological control of a potential pest, the earthworm.
As stated above earthworms can be a ‘potential pest’ yet I view worms as a desirable addition. Worms aerify the soil plus reduce our thatch levels by feeding on it and mixing soil with micro-organisms into that layer providing further breakdown and dilution of fairway thatch levels. A negative aspect of worm activity is the fact that excessive worm castings on the turf surface will cause our mower reels to dull quickly and can even clog a reel or stop it from turning; further damaging the mowing unit. This problem only seems to be an issue in late-winter/early-spring as earthworm activity is completed un-checked. Worm castings accumulate in excess after and under the melting snow on the fairway surface. Dragging that fairway surface with steel drag mats on dry days after snow melt (prior to our first mowing of the season) knocks down the castings and mowing the fairway turf can then be accomplished. The return of the Seagulls at that time puts the earthworm population in check or within our threshold levels and beneficial activity continues.
Crows and ravens are also biological control partners of ours. These winged friends probe the ground all summer long feasting on cutworms. Cutworms are a caterpillar species that feeds on the turf surface at night then burrow down during the daytime hours. Cutworm feeding activity becomes a problem on the closely cut putting green surface. Channels and frass piles left behind by night feeding will disrupt smooth ball roll.
Vertical mowing on the greens during peak cutworm activity will also control the cutworm population. This additional mechanical control has worked for us and reduces the need for a chemical application.
Now if there were only a biological value to the Canadian Geese (we need our coyotes back) J