Chafer beetle and crow damage. In Harmony Sustainable Landscapes.

Crows, raccoons and other wildlife may destroy your lawn searching for chafer beetle larvae. Photo: UBC Botanic Gardens.

What is a chafer beetle?

The European chafer beetle is a serious lawn pest. It was introduced to Washington state in 2015.

Why should you care?

Chafer beetle larvae feed on the roots of turf grass. Many animals find the larvae or grubs irresistible. This includes raccoons, skunks, otters (yes, really), crows and other birds. They rip up vast areas of grass one tuft at a time to get to the grubs. In the process, they may totally destroy your lawn.

 What you can do
European chafer beetle larva. In Harmony Sustainable Landscapes

European chafer beetle larvae look like a sinister alien species. They are about 3/4 inches long with 3 sets of forelegs. Photo: David Cappaert, Bugwood.org.

  • Do you think you have chafer beetles in your lawn? Give us a call and we’ll come out to confirm it and report it to the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
  • Grow a healthy lawn. Chafer beetles prefer weak and stressed lawns.
  • Do not let your lawn go dormant over the summer months. Continue regular watering to keep the lawn alive and healthy.
  • We do not recommend you apply any systemic insecticides or other chemicals. Even if the chemicals are “naturally” derived, they can kill worms and beneficial insects.

Tips for a healthy lawn 

  • Increase mowing height to 2-1/2 inches or more. This produces deeper roots, shades out weeds and holds up better to damage. Cutting the grass short will allow moss and weeds in, prevent good root growth and be less resistant to erosion and compaction.
  • Water deeply (about one inch a week) and infrequently. This encourages grass roots to grow more deeply. Frequent shallow watering keeps roots at the surface, rots anything deeper, stunts growth, causes thatch and more.
  • Fertilize regularly with organic, slow-release fertilizers.
  • Top dress to add organic material and improve soil structure.
  • Make sure your lawn gets enough sunlight. Lawns need a minimum of four hours of direct sun each day.

What In Harmony can do

European chafer adult. In Harmony Sustainable Landscapes.

European chafer beetle adults are about 1/2 inch long and resemble Japanese beetles. Photo: Bruce Watt, University of Maine, Bugwood.org.

  • Aerate, overseed and top dress the lawn. These treatments bring more air and water into lawn roots, add organic matter and help the lawn grow more thickly.
  • Test your soil and add lime as needed to reduce acidity.
  • Thin trees to allow in more sunlight.
  • Replace lawns in shady areas with groundcovers and other plantings better suited to shade.
  • Reseed a damaged lawn with tall fescues, which the beetles do not favor.
  • Apply beneficial nematodes. We can apply a strain that will reduce grub populations by about 60-70%. The nematodes are totally safe and nontoxic to people, pets and other insects. Nematodes are tricky to use, however. They must be applied around July when the grubs are most vulnerable, and you must water well before the application and then twice per week for three weeks. Applications may need to be done for more than two seasons.

Chafer beetle is a new pest with a lot of unknowns and we’re learning how to deal with it. Be confident that you are a step ahead partnering with In Harmony Sustainable Landscapes.

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