British Columbia

Mild winter means chafer beetle is back with a vengeance

According to one lawn specialist, a milder winter means the European chafer beetle has been out of hibernation longer and is attracting the animals that eat them, for longer too.

Lawn specialist says now is the time to do some lawn work to prevent the grubs next year

The European chafer beetle turns from grub to beetle in May. (Susana da Silva/CBC News)

A milder winter means the European chafer beetle has been out of hibernation for longer than usual. This also means the animals that tear up lawns and eat the grubs have been around for a while, too, according to one lawn specialist.

"Although we did have snow, there wasn't a really deep frost line, so it was milder, a lot more moisture in the soil," said Robert Bourne of Nutri-Lawn Vancouver.

Robert Bourne says every other call his lawn company receives these days is related to chafer beetle damage. (Susana da Silva/CBC News)

"The animals were able to look for the food more often and the grubs were able to move around a lot more as well. So the movement of the grubs along with the animals being able to seek out food has caused the damage we have seen."

Animals like crows are ripping up lawns looking for the grub of the European chafer beetle. (Susana da Silva/CBC News)

Bourne says compared to last year — after a prolonged cold winter — the company has had far more calls about the chafer beetle, with about half of all calls related to lawn damage caused by birds, raccoons and skunks digging up the juicy grubs. 

The European chafer beetle was first found in Metro Vancouver in New Westminster in 2001 and began to spread, according to the Vancouver Park Board. 

"Just a few years ago, we never heard from Surrey or Delta or White Rock. Now we get calls every day. The east side of Vancouver starting to move west. On the North Shore, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows," says Bourne.

"We are receiving calls from everywhere."

'Drives me nuts'

Nina Santalucia and her son Salvatore have been fighting the beetle in their now battle-scarred front lawn in East Vancouver.

"I am afraid to use the front door every time. I pick up my mail and shut it because i don't want to see this grass," Santalucia says. "Drives me nuts and makes me sick."

Her son says they have tried everything.

"Trying to do whatever to make it look nice and it is just so frustrating because every year we do a little bit — put some top soil, some grass seed and then by the next year it gets torn apart again," says Salvatore Santalucia.

Some of their neighbours have resorted to unique lawn decorations of netting and plastic fencing to try to keep the animals away.

Some homeowners are resorting to unique additions to their lawn to try and keep the birds away. (Susana da Silva/CBC News)

'Natural barrier'

Bourne says the grubs will turn into beetles and fly away in the latter part of May, before returning to lay their eggs during the month of June.

He says now is the time to think about doing some work on your damaged lawn, including removing any ripped up grass, or completely digging up the yard, including a couple inches of soil to remove many of the grub and starting again.

Either grass seed or sod will work and there are certain varieties that are more resistant to the beetle.

The key is keeping the lawn healthy, he says.

Bourne also says a natural way to kill them is applying a parasitic roundworm called nematodes in late July or fall.

The Vancouver Park Board said in a statement that it will wait a couple more weeks to do a thorough assessment of problem areas.