Vancouver's media are finally talking about the plague of grass burrowing larvae that raccoons, skunks and various birds love to munch on, and will rip your grass to get. Of course we're talking about the infestation of the European chafer beetle across the city. Friday's Courier cover story by Sandra Thomas, and other reporting by the Vancouver Sun is elevating this subject into the mainstream in Vancouver.
Despite the fact this matter has been discussed at length in New Westminster and Burnaby (who have been dealing with the beetles for years), the City of Vancouver is strangely silent on the subject. In fact, if you search the city's website, you'd be hard pressed to find more than a couple of dated reports on the subject going back a few years.
The City of Vancouver has many more important issues on its hands than lawns, but if there is one scourge that is making residential neighbourhoods look rather neglected in recent years, the chafer beetle is it. I began to notice the problem in Vancouver late in 2008 in the Killarney neighbourhood. The bugs have been making their way westward, and now can be seen all the way to UBC.
You've probably seen some of the remedies attempted by homeowners. The funniest solutions are stakes in the ground with strips of plastic tied to them, or even old CDs dangling from strings. Someone thought this might save the lawns, but it only adds to the shabby appearance of so many yards and boulevards.
What I've noticed on the East side is that the yards most affected are in households where English isn't spoken. The population of southeast Vancouver is predominantly Chinese, and many households are first generation Canadians who might not read publications like the Courier. For whatever reason, the explanation for what is ravaging their lawns has not made its way to many of these folks. All the more reason why the City or the Park Board should be trying harder to educate the public – and not only in English. Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Punjabi and Vietnamese translated information on how to deal with the chafer beetles would go a long way to improve the look of several Vancouver communities.
In fact, if 311 had been properly promoted to Vancouver in all languages (it is a multi-lingual service), maybe that would help to mitigate this problem. And excuse me for suggesting this, but I've heard Coun. Andrea Reimer and Vision supporters looking down their noses at lawns. Growing and maintaining grass, according to their view, is "inefficient" and "wasteful". I ripped out my front lawn last year not because it meets with approval of these folks, but because I like to garden and my lawn was overtaken by buttercup. That doesn't mean I expect my neighbours to do the same.
Sure, the chafer beetle mess will cause some folks to consider changing their lawn-growing habits, planting a garden or adding in a little moss or clover to deter the pests. But for the vast majority of us, those lush green lawns are valued as leisure space, or they just make your home look nicer. Until we all learn how to deal with them, the beetles will continue to make lawns on street after street in Vancouver's neighbourhoods look like a battle zone.
It would be nice if someone on city council took up the cause and asked if it would be possible to get the City to circulate info about nematodes (little worms that you must add to your lawn in late July), or tips on better lawn care practices to deter the critters. There are a few things that city governments really ought to be in the practice of, and one of those things is providing its citizens with resources to deal with pests.
While the folks at City Hall are focused on turning our backyards into farmyards, they're missing the stuff that really is important to most of us – such as keeping up the good appearance of our communities. Hopefully someone figures out that we should try to fight back against these bugs – as other cities have done – and soon.
Here's some useful info on how to battle the beetles from CityFarmer TV.
- post by Mike