The Chafer Challenge: Got Lawn?

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There’s been an undeniable ugliness creeping through the Tri Cities this spring. Lawns across Coquitlam & Port Coquitlam have been pulled, dug, rolled, and thrown about. It is awful, and a tell tale sign of a European Chafer Beetle infestation.

How did they get here?

Although not Native to the area, the European Chafer Beetle has been in the lower mainland for over a decade. First spotted in New Westminister, then Vancouver & parts of Burnaby. They showed up in our neighborhoods late last summer having hitched a ride in a large movement of soil. Possibly brought in on one of the many large trucks of soil used though out the terraforming projects surrounding the Port Mann bridge/ Trans Canada Highway expansion. Chaffer Beetles love to travel covertly. Once they’re in an area they spread and take over lawns.

The Damage Done

I know what you’re thinking. What kind of beetle causes damage like that? I mean common, it must have radioactive super powers or something, right?  No, something a little more basic is at play. Simple animal instinct. The Chaffer Beetle eats on the roots of your grass, causing the grass to feel spongy from the chafer’s tunneling below. This damage to the turf is increased due to rodents, skunks, raccoons & birds literally diggin in for a feast. Despite the damage, your helpful forrest friends are protecting the lawn by trying to stamp out an invasive species.

Go team crows!

Do not remove your soil. I repeat, DO NOT remove your soil.

You will only aid in the transfer of this pest into other areas. Grubs are inclined to feed on turf with weak short root system. So grow a healthy and vigorous lawn by starting a spring & fall maintenance routine. Along with regular aeration, dethatching & fertilizing you should keep your grass long. Set the lawnmower to one of the highest settings.  This will keep you grass green and lush. It is also recommended that whenever possible you grasscycle, leaving the clippings on the lawn. This will overseed your lawn while maintaining top turf health.

Chafer calendar

Chafer’s complete their life cycle in a year which leads to rapid population explosions. They key to controlling them is maintaining quality soil and turf conditions while understanding their lifecycle. Spring may be the time for lawn care, but summer is the time to stamp out the next generation of Chafers. This is when the pupa turn into a beetle & takes flight. They return in the 2-3 week of July to lay eggs under the turf. In this time further action may be required.

The Fix 

The best solution & prevention against European Chafer Beetles is good lawn health. In extreme cases or near high traffic areas replacement of turf with other ground covers or landscaping materials may be a better solution. Saving you time & grief. If Chafer problems persist in your lawn with more than 5-10 grubs found per square foot, then chafer control may be necessary

  • In late June nematodes (Heterorhabditis bacteriophora) can be purchased from your local independent nursery, this way you’ll have them ready for use in July.
  • In the 3rd week of July prep your lawn by watering it well. This is best to do the night before you apply the nematodes.
  • Apply nematodes on your lawn at a rate of 70,000 per square foot, or 750,000 per square metre. (Approximately 100 million nematodes should cover a 33 × 45 foot lawn.)
  • Keep the soil moist for a week after applying the nematodes to ensure the best results.

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Good news! Fellow Master Gardeners report that while New Westminister lawns were the first to fall to the Chafer, after years of careful care and maintenance their lawns are now returning to their former glory. So hold hope, your lawns glory days may still be ahead.

More Chafer Tips:

The Canadian Nursery Landscape Association

The Ministry of Agriculture

City of Coquitlam

The City of Vancouver

Steve Whysall’s column in the Vancouver Sun

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