Chafer beetles have infested turf throughout Metro Vancouver, and lawns are being shredded by crows, raccoons and other animals looking for the high-protein beetle larvae lurking under the grass.
Here are some tips for battling the beetle.
1. Do a turf test
If animals are feasting on your lawn, there's a good chance you've got chafer beetles.
To make sure that's the problem, do a simple test:
- Cut three sides of a 30 cm x 30 cm square patch of the problem area and roll back the turf.
- Look for white, c-shaped grubs about the size of a dime.
- Repeat up to five times.
If you find more than 5 grubs per square foot, consider taking action.
2. Apply nematodes
Beneficial nematodes are tiny parasites that enter beetle larvae and kill them. Some municipalities offer discounts on nematodes, which must be applied during a specific window (late July-early August) when the grubs are young.
You must keep your turf moist for a period following application.
Water restrictions in the summer of 2015 limited the effective use of nematodes. Metro Vancouver recently proposed an amendment the Water Shortage Response Plan to allow people with special nemotode-related exemption permits to continue to water lawns during stage 3 water restriction.
3. Let the predators go at the grubs...for now.
If crows and raccoons are digging up your lawn, there's not much point in trying to stop them right now, says Conway Lum of Gardenworks, who has seen everything from chicken wire laid over the grass, to pie pans and fake crows intended to scare away critters.
"If you're going to using those deterents ... do you really want to make your house look like a haunted house eight months of the year?" asks Lum, who is a certified horticultural technician.
In fact, Lum says it may be to your advantage to let them eat as many of the grubs as possible to help bring down the population before you apply nematode treatments mid-summer and start to restore your lawn.
4. Keep your lawn long and healthy
Chafer beetles are less likely to lay eggs in healthy grass. Lum recommends regular fertilization and liming, proper aeration, and keeping grass longer.
He suggests tamping down remaining grass and re-seeding as the weather gets warmer.
Lawns with less than six inches of soil are more difficult to keep healthy and may need to be replaced with new turf.
5. Consider alternatives
Some homeowners are replacing beetle-infested lawns with vegetable gardens, alternative landscaping and hardscaping, and even synthetic turf.
For the majority who still want a lawn, micro-clover, tall fescue, creeping thyme are some of the hardier, beetle-resistant options.
However, they can also cost up to four times more than conventional grass, thanks in part to a low Canadian dollar.
6. Don't expect a magic bullet
Keeping chafer beetles in check requires a wholistic approach, says Lum. "People are trying to look for a magic solution. There is no magic solution."
He says a combination of good lawn care and proper nematode application can help get things under control.
A bit of patience helps too.
"Don't get stressed over it" advises Lum. "Life is too short to be stressed over a piece of grass."
To hear Conway Lum's tips, listen to the audio labelled: Beating the Chafer Beetle?
To hear the about lawn alternatives, listen to the audio labelled: Chafer Beetles: Lawn Alternatives