March 4th, 2021 by
Whether you’re a keen gardener or just someone who likes to spend time in their outside space, everyone wants a neat, lush, green lawn. It’s great for the kids to play on, to host barbecues and parties in the summer, or just generally for relaxing in the fresh air in nice weather. A beautiful lawn doesn’t just happen though; it takes some maintenance and it definitely requires some preventative measures against your grass’s nemesis – chafer grubs.
What are chafer grubs and why do I need to protect my lawn against them?
Chafer grubs are, as the name suggests, the grubs of the chafer beetle. If you are familiar with these insects, you will know that the beetle itself is actually harmless. The same cannot be said for the grubs. Chafer beetles lay their eggs in the soil, which then hatch underground. The grubs that emerge continue to live under your lawn where they feed on the roots of the grass. Any horticulturist will know that if you destroy the roots of any plant, it will eventually kill it.
Living underground in this way gives the grubs unlimited, immediate access to their food source. It also means that they are hidden from your sight and they can continue their onslaught undisturbed. Often the first indication you will get that you have an infestation is the damage that they have caused and by this time the infestation could be well established. The visible signs of damage can include yellowing of the grass or whole patches just dying off. You may even see the turf being torn up in places as birds, hedgehogs, and foxes will all eat the grubs. Great for them finding sustenance, but less good for your grass and certainly not conducive to the pristine lawn you’re aiming for.
Why specifically protect against chafer grubs?
There is any number of pests and diseases that can harm the plants in your garden, and it would be a full-time job trying to protect against them all, so you may be asking yourself what’s so special about chafer grubs. There are two very good reasons for taking steps to prevent a chafer grub infestation:
- Chafer grubs are incredibly difficult to eradicate
- Preventing them is easy, inexpensive, and will reap many additional benefits to your lawn
It seems then, that being proactive against these pests is a no brainer.
Let’s have a look at both of these points in more detail.
1. Eradicating chafer grubs – why is it so hard?
Believe it or not, in this era of advanced science, there is no legal chemical pesticide that will kill chafer grubs in the UK so you can’t get rid of them in a conventional pest control manner. There are a couple of natural-based solutions, which sounds great in theory but in practice, both come with some fairly big drawbacks. You could employ an army of nematodes – a parasite that latches on to the grubs and kills them but doesn’t kill other insects or plants. This is an effective solution, but there’s a catch – nematodes are very expensive. You could easily be talking £60+ for an average-sized lawn. You also need to consider that nematodes are living things, so you need to be careful how you store them and how long you store them for, or they’ll die.
Another option is neem oil, which is a naturally occurring pesticide. Neem oil will, indeed, kill chafer grubs but this is more of a ‘shock and awe’ campaign as it will kill many other insects that you really don’t want to eradicate, such as bees and ladybirds, unless handled with extreme care.
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2. Preventing chafer grubs
We know that you can’t protect against everything but in the case of chafer grubs, it’s really just a case of good lawn maintenance. That’s because your best defence against these destructive bugs is something as simple as iron sulphate. Just as you give yourself the best chance of not getting a cold by staying healthy, getting exercise, and eating your 5 a day, the best way of resisting a pest that eats the roots of grass is to make that grass strong, healthy, and robust.
This is where iron sulphate becomes your best friend. Iron sulphate is most commonly promoted as a greening treatment for grass but actually, green, lush grass is a happy outcome of strong, healthy, pest-resistant grass. It also increases the acidity of the soil and the grass which chafer grubs don’t like. The health of a grass that has been treated with iron sulphate means that even if you do get a few (and it’s very difficult to achieve 100% prevention), it will ward off most of them and prevent a large-scale infestation.
Best of all, iron sulphate is cheap to buy, easy to apply, can be used all year round, and will make your grass look amazing whether chafer grubs were ever a threat or not. It will even help it resist unwanted growths such as moss. That’s a win-win in our books!
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