BY JULIE CHENG
Those pesky chafer beetles star started showing up earlier this year—from late May right til the end of June.
They first showed up coming from underground and creeping up strands of grass on the lawn, where I’d stomp on them, wincing at every loud crunch. Mid June found me outside with a broom whacking my tall rhododendron where they swarmed at dusk, hoping, I reasoned, to ruin their sex lives so they wouldn’t mate and lay eggs on my lawn. I later used the more dignified tactic of spraying them with the hose.
Late June I found some dead ones in my backyard. I imagined them burrowing down into the grass, laying their 300 eggs or so, then dying, their life spent but fulfilled.
Signs of chafer beetle
Adult European chafer beetles are copper-coloured beetles. Females lay eggs, which hatch in about two weeks and grow into grubs. These soft, white grubs chomp on the grass roots, destroying lawns.
My lawn will start showing damage from fall to early spring. During this time, the resident skunk and the crows make a buffet of them. I don’t mind these critters digging up the lawn, I think they’re doing me a favour by eating as many of the grubs as they can.
Otherwise, I’d be digging them up myself. I have been known to smash a few with my shovel out of frustration, but mostly I dig up 10-20 a day and feed them to my neighbour’s chickens. You have to love those yummy, protein-rich chafer eggs the chickens produce.
Fighting chafers naturally
It’s important to keep your lawn healthy. This means regular aerating, watering and mowing, as well as applying lime. Try overseeding your lawn with tall fescue grass, which the beetles don’t like to lay their eggs in and the grubs have a hard time feeding on. Microclover is also a good choice.
In the city of Vancouver, you’re not allowed to use pesticides to treat chafers, but you may use nematodes, which are microscopic worms that attack the grubs. You can buy nemadoes at a garden store.
Make sure you apply the nematodes early mornings or evenings or on a cloudy day and keep the soil moist for four to seven days afterwards. You may purchase a water exemption permit from the city to sprinkle your lawn extra days (http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/water-exemption-permits.aspx).
For more information:
City of Vancouver http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/chafer-beetles.aspx
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