Getting ready for chafer invasion

How to defend your garden against the European chafer beetle.

Blue star creeper (left) and red creeping thyme.

The invaders first landed in New Westminster in the autumn of 2001 and, no, they didn’t arrive in flying saucers. Their mode of transportation was probably soil that came with a transplanted shrub.

Rhizotrogus majalis, or European chafer beetle, spread quickly, with the adults flying west towards the setting sun and infesting lawns in Burnaby and Vancouver.

That all changed the last few years with some peripheral movement to the northeast into the Tri-Cities region the result being that lawns in Port Coquitlam, Port Moody and Coquitlam are being torn apart by skunks, raccoons, jays and crows feasting on beetle larvae, which are in turn dining on the turf roots – a definite lose-lose scenario.

Of course, that wasn’t our problem. We always thought that the Pitt River would be a natural barrier to their spread here, but that is no longer the case.

I heard rumours of their presence in west Pitt Meadows last year, but now we know that they are infesting lawns right up to Harris Road and possibly into Hammond – so the time to get ready is now.

Start by learning your enemy’s habits and life cycle.

European chafer is a reddish-brown beetle that emerges out of the ground in late spring, swarms and mates on trees and shrubs at night and returns to the soil (usually a lawn) to lay eggs.

The first grubs (or instar) hatch in late July (the best time to control this pest), going through two more instars or stages through to November, all the while feeding on grass roots.

In mild winter weather, it continues to feed, although it will go deeper into the soil with frosts, rising again from March to May to feed, at which time it much resembles the monster from the movie Alien, with a  large creamy-white curled body, a yellow head and legs on the front and spines protruding from the tail.

This instar stops feeding from mid-May to early June and pupates to become the adult beetle.

So now that you know what you are up against, how can you defend yourself against this insidious pest?

Here are the best options:

• Maintain a thick, healthy lawn – chafer beetle is always looking for those bare patches of dirt in a lawn to lay eggs. Thick, healthy lawns are more difficult to penetrate and are often minimally impacted. Also, keep it cut higher to deter chafer.

• Amend your lawn with micro clover – micro clover is a new dwarf cultivar of Dutch white clover (Trifolium repens), which grows low (seven centimetres) and rarely flowers, creating a dense mat below existing grasses that is difficult for chafer to penetrate.

A five to 10 per cent rate is recommended and there is also a chafer resistant seed mixture out there blended with tall fescue (whose roots are more difficult for the chafer to eat) and micro clover.

• Nematodes – nematodes (specifically Heterorhabditis bacteriophora) are microscopic worms (purchase at garden centres) that are watered into lawns in late July, infecting and killing the young grubs.

Water restrictions last year made application impossible, but Metro Vancouver is promising sprinkler exemptions for chafer control this time around.

• Replace the lawn – many Tri-City residents have chosen to replace their lawn with low-growing ground-covers, such as creeping thymes (Coccineus, ‘Purple Carpet’), blue star creeper, goldmoss stonecrop or brass buttons in conjunction with low growing shrubs and other perennials.

 

Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (hebe_acer@hotmail.com).

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Patrick Hughes, member of the Seniors Network, Age Friendly Community Task Group, and David Cooke, manager of Business Solutions, Information Technology for the City of Maple Ridge, work on the Seniors Mapping App. (Seniors Network/Special to The News)
Seniors mapping program first for Maple Ridge

The goal of the program is to increase outdoor community participation for older adults

Students at Langley’s Brookswood school were among an estimated 85,000 students who cast ballots representing all 87 electoral districts in the province, mirroring the actual election (file)
How would young people have decided the B.C. Election? We have an answer.

In Langley, Maple Ridge and neighbouring Abbotsford ridings, the winners would be the same

Lisa Beare and her husband Hendrik Butter on a Zoom call with NDP volunteers on election night. (Special to The News)
NDP’s Beare defends her seat in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows

With no green candidate, those votes went to NDP, Liberals speculate

Ann Steen (left) will be playing organized soccer for the first time at age 77. She credits Ridge Meadows Soccer’s Shauna Williams (right) for the push. (Ronan O’Doherty - THE NEWS)
Ridge Meadows Soccer Club offers walking soccer program

The slower-paced version of the beautiful game is aimed at seniors and those with limited mobility

Brad Lyle, left, in costume with his Cauldron Creeper display that he made himself. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)
Trick or treat if you dare at this Maple Ridge home

Brad and Stacey Lyle have their home decked out for Halloween

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

This Crescent Beach home, located at 12505 22 Ave., was subject of a police search warrant June 18. (Google image)
Civil forfeiture office alleges $2M Surrey home was used to launder cannabis money

Court documents request the home, and $85,000 to be turned over to the government

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

Most Read