Chafer Beetle

Do you have crows, skunks, or raccoons digging up your lawn? If so, you may have a European Chafer beetle infestation.

The European Chafer beetle (Rhizotrogus majalis) is a serious pest in Eastern North America, and was first identified in the Lower Mainland region in New Westminster in 2001. It has since spread to many Metro Vancouver municipalities causing considerable damage to lawns, boulevards, medians, and turf in parks.

Chafer beetles have a one year life cycle and populations build up quickly since there are few natural predators to control its population. The grubs feed on the roots of many different plants, but prefer the fibrous roots of turf grasses. In drier weather, the damage caused results in the appearance of brown patches in the lawn.

Most of the serious turf damage is typically caused by birds and animals digging for Chafer beetle grubs. Damage by animals is most severe in the Fall and Spring when the grubs are rapidly increasing in size and feeding near the surface.

Lawn Care

The European Chafer Beetle is here to stay, but with healthy lawn care practices, alternative groundcovers and biological treatment, damage from this pest can be controlled on residential properties.

Maintaining a healthy lawn is the first step in protecting against grubs. Healthy lawns have a more extensive root system, and can tolerate more grub feeding. Don't cut your grass too short. Raise your mowing height to 6-9cm (2.5-3 inches), since Chafer beetles prefer laying eggs on closely cropped lawns. The taller grass also helps protect the soil surface from water loss and encourages deeper root growth.

Once you've determined that you have Chafer Beetles in your lawn, you can treat them, repair your lawn – or replace your lawn with an alternative.

Chafer Beetle Control & Treatment

There are several ways to try to control Chafer Beetles.

Biological Control - Nematodes

Studies have shown that the most effective biological control measure is the natively-occurring nematode (or microscopic roundworm) Heterorhabditis bacteriophora. The H. bacteriophora nematode is a “cruiser” species that actively infects and kills white grubs, such as the European chafer grubs. Treatments are most effective if done in late July, after the European chafer eggs have hatched and when the young grubs are most vulnerable to nematode attack. Nematodes are not a preventative measure; they control chafer beetles that have laid eggs in your lawn. Nematodes are safe to use around both people and pets.

Contact your local garden supply store in May to check on availability of nematodes.

Talk to your local garden centre experts to get your pre-order in and find out more about applying your nematodes correctly. Things to keep in mind:

  • Nematodes are living things and need to be kept that way to work. Keep them refrigerated until application. 
  • Follow application directions on the package
  • Remember to get your City Lawn Sprinkling Permit which allows you an exemption from sprinkling regulations. The permit is free with proof of your nematode purchase. You will need the permit because the application area must be well irrigated so that there is no dry soil in the root zone. Get more information on City sprinkling permits and regulations

Chafer Beetle Treatment Calendar

  • Greatest bird and animal damage, but there is no effective control at this time of year.
  • Repair damaged areas and maintain established lawns.
  • Contact your local garden supply store in May to check on availability of nematodes. Nemotode application is done in late July.
  • Obtain your free Lawn Sprinkling Permit from the City.
  • Apply nematodes as directed by your local garden centre.
  • Raise mowing height to 6-9cm, and leave clippings if possible. Water 2x/week, following watering restrictions.
  • Water 2x/week, following watering restrictions. Apply slow release fertilizer.

Physical Barriers

Some residents have had some success preventing Chafer beetle infestation with the use of Remay cloth, plastic sheeting, or landscape fabric to cover their lawns before dusk (approximately 9 pm) in June and July when the adult beetles area most active. A cover may prevent mated females from laying eggs in your turf and repeating the cycle. Note that some covers may need removal each morning.

Chemical Control - Banned

The use of pesticides, such as Merit, for the treatment of Chafer Beetle is not permitted in the City of North Vancouver. The City’s Cosmetic Pesticide Control Use Bylaw, No. 8041 restricts the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes and allows exemptions only where there is a danger to human or animal health or damage to buildings or structures, such as for hogweed or knotweed species.

Merit’s active ingredient is Imadacloprid, a neonicotonoid which selectively acts on neurons of invertebrates (causes convulsions, paralysis, and eventually, death).  It breaks down very slowly in soil, and concentrations increase significantly year after year with repeated use, accumulating to concentrations that can cause mass mortality in most soil-dwelling animal life.  It has also been implicated in colony collapse disorder.

For more information on controlling the Chafer beetle, please contact your local garden centre.

Lawn Renovation & Repair

Your lawn has been decimated by crows searching for Chafer beetles. Now what?

Renovating your lawn is one way of dealing with this infestation. This solution is labour intensive, generates a large volume of organic material to compost or dispose of, and will require you to amend your soil and wait for your seeded lawn to grow in or turf lawn to establish.

The City follows these steps when renovating turf areas affected by the Chafer Beetle:

  1. Gather up the loose turf and a bit of the top layer of soil.
  2. Compost this material or take up to a half cubic metre (approximately two wheelbarrows) to the North Shore Recycling & Waste Centre. For larger quantities, contact RCBC at 604-732-9253 or to locate the closest composter. To determine the cost to dispose, calculate using Metro Vancouver's Recycling and Disposal Cost estimator. Alternatively, hire a professional to dispose of the material responsibly.
  3. Add soil (Turf Blend or Boulevard soil mix) and starter fertilizer.
  4. Add seed, rake the seed in and water initially to aid germination.
  5. Water seeded area adequately to maintain moisture.
  6. In a few cases, follow up with nematodes at the appropriate time, likely in July.

Lawn Alternatives - Replacement

Chafer beetle larvae don't attack all plants so you may want to consider an alternate ground cover. Lawn alternatives can be drought and pest resilient and can require less care and maintenance, as well as provide features such as colour, flowers, and texture.

Plant Creeping Thyme as a lawn alternative Plant Creeping Thyme as a lawn alternative Plant Creeping Thyme as a lawn alternative

When considering what kind of lawn alternative to install, do your research on plants which are best-suited for the area and use, because it will require some work to install, maintain, and care for over the years. Here are a few things to consider when you are looking at lawn alternatives:

  • Do your research: How will your lawn area be used? Will you only occasionally walk on it or not at all? Will you need to rake leaves from surrounding trees?
  • What is your sun exposure? Full sun or more shady? How hot (or not) does it get in the summer?
  • What is your soil like? Does it drain well or hold a lot of water?
  • What kind of plants do you want to look at? Uniform height and colour or a real mix of plants? Would you like flowers? Evergreen or deciduous?

Keep in mind:

  • If you're planting near a City sidewalk, you'll need to ensure the plants don't overhang the sidewalk and are no taller than 45cm (18").
  • The City does not permit the installation of artificial turf on public property. The City reserves the right to request that it be removed at the resident’s cost.

Lawn Alternatives

  • Clovers: Often maligned in traditional lawns, these are resilient, generally evergreen, and flower. Consider Dutch White Clover.
  • Sedges: There are many varieties of Sedges (Carex spp.) that are low growing and evergreen.
  • Herbs: Thyme, Lavender, Oregano, etc. are all colourful, drought tolerant and useful.
  • Ornamental Grasses: While turf grass is greatly affected by the Chafer beetle, many ornamental grasses are resilient enough to withstand attack.
  • Sedums: A versatile, extremely drought tolerant and beautiful succulent-like plant that will add a lot of colour to any landscape.

Additional Information and Sources

(Disclaimer: The City of North Vancouver does not endorse these businesses and offers the following links for research purposes only.)

If you're not interested in a lawn alternative, you might consider low shrubs and woody ornamentals. If planted within the City's Right Of Way, please ensure you follow the City's guidelines for Boulevard Landscaping and Maintenance.


What the City is Doing

The City is managing Chafer Beetle infestations in priority areas, such as parks and greenways, following the best management practices outlined above. The City is implementing a range of turf care and Chafer Beetle control measures, including removing and repairing damaged grass, and applying nematodes.

The Chafer Beetle will likely remain an ongoing management issue in the region; however, through consistently implementing the recommended best practices, the extent of the impact can be minimized.

Additional Resources

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