Chafer beetles outbreak causes torn up lawn at Vancouver’s City Hall

Drought conditions exacerbated Vancouver’s chafer beetle problem this summer, says the city’s park board chairman.

“We had a perfect storm this summer. Normally we would apply the nematodes…but you need water to do that, and this year we couldn’t water because there was the water restrictions,” says John Coupar.

Nematodes are tiny worms that are up to 90 per cent effective in combating the invasive beetles if applied correctly and at the right time.

“We fell behind, and we’re starting to see it now all across the city. I’m sure people are seeing it in their own back yards as well.”

Coupar made his comments outside City Hall, which has been hit particularly hard by the European beetle.

The damage comes in two different ways. The beetles eat the roots of the grass, while the sheer number of them bring attention to birds and other animals who tear up the ground trying to get them.

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The outbreak was first detected in New Westminster in 2001, but outbreaks have steadily increased in the Metro Vancouver area over the past decade.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver residents battle European chafer beetle

“We’ve had this problem going back 10 years starting in the city, so it’s not a new problem. Our staff do a really good job,” says Coupar.

“When there is damage, when you pat the soil down or compact it, sometimes the roots will retake and you’ll get a reasonable result, and then you can overseed in the late fall and the spring.”

Coupar says $200,000 was earmarked in this year’s budget to deal with the problem in Vancouver parks, and that staff will provide recommendations on how to prevent an outbreak next year.

But for now, the lawn at 12th and Cambie is torn up.

“We have to follow the rules like everyone else, and when you can’t water lawns, you can’t water lawns,” he says.

“You see an area that was beautiful green space or lawn and it’s pretty torn up. When you see that and you’re involved with parks, you don’t feel good about that.”

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