Chafer grubs

If your lawn is being dug up by badgers or attracting crows and rooks, you may have some chafer grubs feeding on the roots, says Pippa Greenwood.

Foe
Chafer grubs.
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I like grass, I like lawns (only the real, living nice sort, of course!) but I am not someone who aspires to a bowling green uber-even spread of perfection. For me a classic ‘utility’ lawn provides what I need – somewhere for us to sit, for the cats to lie , for the occasional game of badminton and of course as a lovely backdrop and foil for whatever happens to be planted close by. That said I feel with a passion for the people who always start contacting me at this time of year to complain that their lawn has yellow ever-expanding patches in it and that something is digging it up and making it look terrible.

Lawn pests

If you’ve started to notice that your lawn has become the meeting point for local foxes, badgers, magpies, crows and rooks and that these critters are ripping up the grass, the chances are that they are not directly to blame.  The underlying cause is likely to be lawn pests, one of which is the chafer grub. A plump whitish-bodied grub with a distinct brownish head and three pairs of clearly visible legs, often found curled into a ‘C’ shape. Not my idea of a tasty snack, but Five Star fare for any of those larger turf-excavating creatures mentioned above!

Root cause

These chafer grubs feed on the roots of the grass, hence the ever expanding areas of poor growth and yellowing  but it is their presence and appeal as a food source for wildlife that ends up causing them to become a serious lawn pest.

The easiest way to check that it is these which are involved, as opposed to, say leatherjackets, is to have a bit of an excavation in one of the yellowed areas.  Don’t be tempted to dig about in the area already excavated by wildlife as they may well have already eaten them all and so left no evidence behind! You could also try watering one of the yellowed areas thoroughly in early evening then covering it with well-anchored, thick black polythene. Then, the morning after installing this ‘trap’ get up bright and early and see what is on the lawn surface – leatherjackets or chafer grubs.

Natural control

The best control method is the biological control nematode, a product especially produced to control this pest efficiently and thoroughly but with absolutely no risk to humans, wildlife or pets. It’s great stuff and easy to apply as you simply drench the lawn with it as per the instructions and the microscopic nematodes swim through the moist soil and kill off the chafer grubs. As long as the soil is moist and with a temperature of about 14-20C (57-69F) this treatment is incredibly effective.  You can find out more and order these nematodes to be sent to you speedily (in their box with its own individual bubble-envelope, first class post) by visiting my website, definitely worth getting some at this time of year when there are lots of chafer grubs about.

Pippa Greenwood

About Pippa Greenwood

Pippa’s gardening passions include grow your own and the things gardeners hate most – pests and diseases! She gives many gardening talks and worked for the RHS for years, spent 13 years as a presenter on BBC Gardeners’ World and since 1995 has been a regular panellist on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time. She was also the gardening advisor for the murder-mystery series, Rosemary & Thyme. Vist Pippa’s website www.pippagreenwood.com for gorgeous vegetable plants with advice from Pippa, pest controls and more
@PippaGreenwood
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