The Hitman’s Guide to Chafer Beetles

You wake up, just like any other morning – the coffee’s gurgling in the brewer, the birds are chirping and life is good. Yawning contently, you open the front door to collect the newspaper… and that’s when you see it. You freeze – eyes widening, jaw dropping as the mug falls from your hand (in slow motion, of course): It’s your precious lawn, shot to shreds like Al Pacino at the end of Scarface. You’ve been hit by a chafer beetle infestation. It’s time for revenge…

Ironically, the serious damage isn’t done by the beetles themselves but rather by the crows, raccoons and skunks that peel back your lawn like a sardine can so they can get to the tasty all-you-can-eat grub fest seething below its green surface.

Chafer Beetles Infestation

Countless lawns across the Lower Mainland have fallen victim to chafer beetles and the creatures who knock them back like Skittles; and since there are laws about rubbing out birds and woodland creatures, it’s the chafers that end up reaping the whirlwind (justice can be a cruel mistress). But unless you’re okay with a lawn that looks like it played host to the Rugby World Cup, it’s time to declare war on these creepy crawly wise-guys.

Chafer beetles weren’t always a problem in British Columbia. They’d been terrorizing lawns back east since the 40’s but it wasn’t until 2001 that they managed to Route 66 it out west in a bag of nursery chips. New Westminster is where they set up shop. Could the situation have been contained with swift pesticide justice? Unlikely. By the time the problem was identified, the chafer beetles had muscled into other Metro Vancouver municipalities. Concerned citizens were dutifully raking, dethatching, aerating, reseeding, fertilizing and watering but to little avail. Desperate times called for desperate measures…

How to Get Rid of Chafer Beetles

Meet the nematodes – microscopic organisms that attack developing chafer larvae, dramatically reducing their population. Although effective, nematodes only work in the last 2 weeks of July (probably a union thing). Bottom line? It takes more than a micro-organism to vanquish the chafer beetle – it takes a vigilant population of local citizens, too. Here’s how you can help:

JANUARY-MARCH: Chafer beetle grubs binge on grass roots, which cause crows, raccoons and skunks to rip your lawn to bits in order to have dinner. How do you combat this grassroots movement right now? You don’t. Timing is everything. If the apathy is killing you, go ahead and confirm your chafer problem by turning over a 30 square centimeter patch of sod and have a peak.

APRIL-JUNE: Grubs chill out in May as they prepare for their coming out party in June, at which point they swarm to get sexy with each other and eventually lay eggs. Repair/replace your green space from April-May. If your lawn is positively crawling with chafer beetles, you might be best served calling in a pesticide pro.

JULY: June’s batch of eggs hatch in July, turning your lawn into a super creepy nursery. That’s when the grubs start feeding on the grass roots. Enter the nematodes! The third week of July is the best time to mount an attack. Apply these bad-boys at a rate of 750,000 per square meter (the bags from the gardening store come with instructions).

AUGUST-SEPTEMBER: Small grubs will continue to feed on grass roots. You’ll know it because your lawn will begin wilting and dying in patches. Be vigilant with your lawn care and water when appropriate! Come September, hit the green stuff with some slow-release fertilizer and keep on top of the mowing. Just don’t go shorter than 5 centimeters.

OCTOBER-DECEMBER: This is when the nasty little chafer grubs wiggle nearer to the surface to continue feeding on grass roots. Cue the crows, skunks and raccoons (aaah, the circle of life). Replace or pat down any clumps of grass as soon as you see them.

Fight lawn crime. Say no to chafer beetles.