Chafer beetles invade Stanley Park

The chafer beetle has been the bane of many a West Coast lawn as crows, raccoons and skunks rip up the ground in search of tasty larvae.

Now the beetle invasion has come to Stanley Park.

"It's just been creeping west," says Brian Quinn, manager of parks operations for the Vancouver Park Board. The signs of beetle-related damage have appeared only in the last year, but Quinn says their arrival was inevitable.

"We've really only noticed it at the entrance to the park off of Georgia Street so far, but I'm sure we'll see it spread into the park this summer."

Beating the chafer beetle (and related damage) is a tough battle to win on the average residential lawn, but it's an even bigger challenge in the expansive park.

Water, tiny worms and longer grass weapons in beetle battle

Quinn says one of the main weapons is to keep your grass healthy and hydrated, particularly in the summer months. Hydration is also essential for the successful application of nematodes. These are small round worms that eat the chafer beetle larvae.

However, Stanley Park contains hectares of grass that are not connected to an irrigation system, which makes it difficult to keep the grass healthy. Quinn says the Park Board is exploring alternative ground cover in these areas, such a micro-clover combined with grass, which would be more resistant to the beetles.

"Looking down the future, we do have to look for alternatives to conventional lawn areas because of high demand on water use and the cost of watering areas," says Quinn. "These all are factors that we have to consider when we look at the way we maintain parks from now on."

Highly-manicured terrain not at risk

Quinn says highly-manicured terrain such as the Rose Garden and Brockton Oval aren't at risk of damage, as they're able to keep the grass healthy and use nematodes. Quinn says crews will also keep the grass slightly longer in to deter beetles from settling in.

As for the damage that's already been done, park board crews plan to begin remediation work next month. However, according to Quinn, this will be an ongoing battle in parks all over the Lower Mainland.

"Like a lot of things, the chafer beetle is here, and it's just another thing we'll have to live with."