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Battle of the bugs: Vancouver Park Board uses microscopic worm to fight chafer beetle pests

July 28 2016

“In keeping with our Park Board biodiversity strategy, our staff is always looking for ways to make parks and recreation operations greener,” said Park Board Chair Sarah Kirby-Yung.

Park Board sprayer

The Vancouver Park Board is taking on the invasive European chafer beetle with a remedy from Mother Nature.

Nematode treatment

Beginning this week, park operations staff are battling the chafer beetle with nematodes – microscopic roundworms – that search and destroy a variety of soil-dwelling grubs, including the chafer beetle. Proper watering is required to ensure a successful treatment, as nematodes use water as their pathway through soil.

31 sports fields to be treated

Over the next three weeks, Park Board staff will treat a total of 31 Vancouver sports fields which sustained severe chafer beetle damage during the hot and dry summer of 2015 when nematode applications were cancelled because of watering restrictions. Two fields – Bobolink Park South and Musqueam Park East – sustained chafer beetle damage so severe they had to be closed entirely this season for restoration.

“In keeping with our Park Board biodiversity strategy PDF file (5.3 MB), our staff is always looking for ways to make parks and recreation operations greener,” said Park Board Chair Sarah Kirby-Yung. “We encourage residents who may be dealing with chafer damage to their lawns to consider this natural, environmentally friendly solution as well.”

Nematodes require water

The nematodes are applied at a rate of 50 million per 150 square metres of field by an industrial sprayer pulled by a tractor. The application requires increased watering to keep the soil moist and nematodes alive, so you may notice more sprinkling of sports fields over the next few weeks. Nematodes are a safe and natural bio-control agent. There are no health risks to people and no restrictions on field usage during the treatments.

Serious pest

The European chafer beetle is a serious turf pest first discovered in BC in New Westminster in 2001. It has since spread to other municipalities causing considerable damage to lawns in private residences, medians, boulevards, and parks.

Chafer beetle adults typically lay their eggs in a lawn in June and when the eggs hatch in July, the small grubs begin to feed on the fibrous roots of turf grasses. This is the time that nematodes are most effective in killing the small grubs. Without treatment, the chafer beetle grubs continue to feed in the soil through the fall and winter. Birds, skunks, and other predators will turn over infested turf in search of the large grubs, causing catastrophic damage to lawns and fields.

Tips for property owners

You can also use the microscopic roundworms to combat the chafer beetle and should follow these steps:

  1. Apply for watering exemption permit
  2. Buy nematodes at local garden centres and keep them refrigerated until you apply them because they are living organisms
  3. Keep your lawn moist before applying nematodes and after for 2 to 3 weeks for best results, to push the nematodes well into the soil

You can avoid chafer beetle infestations by keeping turf healthy and adopting vigorous maintenance routines involving aerating, fertilizing, deep watering, and mowing. In high traffic areas, consider grass replacements such as mulch or paving stones or use alternative ground covers.

In addition to battling chafer beetles with nematodes, Park Board staff are experimenting with alternative plantings such as a grass and micro-clover mix for passive park areas. 
 
Learn more about treating chafer beetles