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European Chafer Turf Pest

Please note: The City of Burnaby's 2021 Nematode Program is now closed. Please see below for more information about chafer beetle treatment and control options. 

The European chafer (Rhizotrogus majalis) is a new turf pest to our region and was first identified in New Westminster in 2001. It has been seen throughout Burnaby and other Lower Mainland communities.

Grubs of the European chafer will feed on grass, and may move into vegetable patches to feed on other plants if food is scarce. The damage this causes, combined with the visible damage of skunks, birds and raccoons pulling back your lawn to get at a meal of grubs, make chafer grubs a damaging pest.

Chafer damage to lawn Chafer bug European Chafer - Grubs


The European chafer completes its life cycle in one year. Adult chafers (beetles) swarm in mating flights on warm evenings in June and July. The beetles usually fly to tall, vertical structures to mate. Damage to lawns is not caused at this time.

Mated females return to grassy areas to lay eggs below the soil. Eggs hatch in June to early August. The larvae or grubs begin feeding on the fibrous roots of grass. At this time it is common for skunks, raccoons and birds to pull back turf in search of a meal of grubs.

Treatment & Control Options

Since the European Chafer is an exotic pest, there are few natural predators to control its population. European Chafer is here to stay, but with healthy lawn care practices, alternative groundcovers and biological treatment, damage from this pest can be controlled on residential properties.

Chafer calendar

Control Options

  1. Cultural Control – Maintaining a healthy lawn is your first line of defence against grubs. Healthy, vigorously growing lawns can tolerate more grub feeding because they generally have more extensive root systems. Alternative ground covers have been considered by many residents and can be aesthetically pleasing year-round. They require little maintenance. Paving stones or mulch can be considered in high traffic areas. Moving towards a more mixed lawn, that includes a variety of fescue grasses, Dutch white clover or micro clover, has been seen to reduce the impacts of chafer. 
  2. Physical/Barrier Controls – Raise your mowing height to 6 to 9 cm (2.5 to 3 inches), since the beetles prefer laying eggs on closely cropped lawns. Higher grass blades will also help to protect the soil surface from water loss during the summer, and encourage deeper root growth.
  3. Biological Control – A study commissioned by the Western Turfgrass Association, the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association and several local municipalities (2005), revealed that biological treatments could be very effective at controlling the European chafer population when used in combination with healthy lawn care practices. According to the study, the most effective biological control measure was the natively-occurring nematode (or microscopic roundworm) Heterorhabditis bacteriophora. The H. bacteriophora nematode is a “crusier” species that actively infects and kills white grubs, such as the European chafer grubs. Treatments are most effective if done in late July, after the European chafer eggs have hatched and when the young grubs are most vulnerable to nematode attack. Nematodes are not a preventative measure, they control chafer beetles that have laid eggs in your lawn.

As of 2019, a new microbial product that suppresses pests such as European Chafer is now registered and available in Canada. The active ingredient is Bacillus thuringiensis galleriae, which kills larvae or beetles when they eat it. Commercial BTG products, such as BeetleGONE! and GrubGONE!, need to be applied by a commercial applicator. There are also some household BTG products, which should be available at some garden centres for homeowners to purchase and apply. Since the treatment is not water-intensive, residents who purchase these products will not qualify for a lawn watering exemption permit. Similar to nematodes, BTG products are not harmful to people, pets or wildlife. 

Chafer damage 1

Nematode Application

For the application of nematodes there are two methods that work the best: a watering can or a hose end sprayer that is made specifically for nematode application. Follow the instructions below on how to use these two methods. Please note that the application of nematodes requires a water exemption permit as the application time is during water restrictions.

Nematode Application

Watering Can

Empty contents of the package (or do it in batches) into a 20 litre (5 gallon) container of water and stir. Once the product is in solution, pour into a watering can in batches and apply to lawn.

Nematode Application

Hose End Sprayer

Mix the contents of the package in 1 to 2 litres of water. The resulting liquid can be used as a concentrate to fill the hose end sprayer container. Follow sprayer directions to adjust the spray.

What is the City doing?

The City is managing European Chafer in priority areas, such as parks, green ways and main arterial boulevards, following the best management options noted above. The City provides a range of turf care and Chafer beetle control measures, including removal and repairing damaged turf, planting alternative ground covers and applying nematodes.

The European Chafer beetle will most likely remain an ongoing issue in the region, however, through consistently  implementing the best management practises, the extent of the damage can be reduced.

For more information:

Contact Us

For other inquiries, or to report the European chafer:
City of Burnaby Corporate Services Department - Climate Action and Energy Division
Phone: 604-294-7850

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