Chafer Beetles & Nematodes

Want to manage European chafer? The City's 2022 Nematode Program begins May 1 until May 31, 2022. View program details

Chafer Beetles - a persistent pest

The European chafer (Rhizotrogus majalis) is a turf pest that arrived in New Westminster two decades ago. Since that time it's moved through Burnaby and other Lower Mainland communities, destroying lawn turf.

Chafer beetles emerge from lawns and lay eggs, which hatch into grubs that feed on grass and may move into vegetable patches to feed on other plants if food is scarce. The damage this causes–slow growth and yellow patches–is compounded by the visible damage created when skunks, birds and raccoons pull back your lawn to get at a meal of 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. However, this isn't the time when they damage your lawn.

The mated females return to grassy areas to lay eggs in the soil. Eggs hatch in June to early August. The grubs begin feeding on the fibrous roots of grass while above the ground, birds and animals tear at the grass turf to eat them.

How to protect your lawn

The European Chafer is an exotic pest with few natural predators to control its population. It's here to stay, but with healthy lawn care practices, alternative groundcovers and biological treatment, you can control the damage this pest causes on your residential property.

Treatment & Control Options

The soil beneath your grass can become very compacted. In early spring, use an aerator to punch 3-inch deep holes throughout your lawn, loosening the soil and allowing for better air circulation and absorption of water and nutrients. Water your grass thoroughly but less often to get the roots growing deeper into the soil. Use fertilizer in May when shoot growth begins–it peaks in June/July and again in September. Reuse grass clippings or compost them to add more nutrients to your grass.

Raise your mowing height to 6 to 9 cm (2.5 to 3 inches). Chafer beetles prefer to lay their eggs on closely cropped lawns. Raising your lawnmower grass blades will also help to protect the soil surface from water loss during the summer, and encourage deeper root growth.

You can consider alternatives to grass There are many very attractive varieties of groundcover plants that cover an area just the way grass does. They require little maintenance, especially if you add paving stones for high-traffic areas. The other alternative is moving towards a more mixed-grass lawn that includes a variety of fescue grasses, Dutch white clover or micro clover that are more resistant to Chafer beetle infestations.

Biological solutions

When combined with healthy lawn care practices, Chafer beetle infestations can be treated naturally.

BTG is a relatively new microbial product that suppresses pests like the European Chafer beetle. Its active ingredient–Bacillus thuringiensis galleriae– kills larvae or beetles when they eat it. Commercial products BeetleGONE!® and GrubGONE!® must be applied by a commercial applicator. A domestic product, Grub B Gone®, is available at home and garden supply stores for homeowners to purchase. Since the treatment isn't water-intensive, you don't need and won't qualify for a lawn watering exemption permit. Like nematodes, BTG products aren't harmful to people, pets or wildlife.

One of the most effective solutions are nematodes–'good worms' that feed on the larvae of these pests.

According to studies, the most effective biological measure was the H. bacteriophora nematode (or microscopic roundworm)–a “cruiser” species native to BC that actively infects and kills white grubs, such as the European chafer grubs.

Applying nematodes is most effective in late July, after the European chafer eggs have hatched, when the young grubs are most vulnerable to nematode attack. Nematodes are not a preventative measure. Rather, they control chafer beetles that have already laid eggs in your lawn.

There are 2 nematode application methods that work best– a watering can or a hose end sprayer that's made specifically for nematode application. Follow the instructions on the nematode package to ensure best results for your turf treatment.

If you need a lawn water exemption permit you can apply for it through our online portal or by completing an online fillable application form and emailing it to [email protected].

What is the City doing?

The City is managing European Chafer in priority areas, such as parks, greenways and main arterial boulevards, following the best management options noted above.

From May 1-31 2022, the City is offering a package subsidy program on nematode purchases from GardenWorks. Burnaby residents can purchase nematode packages for $44.99 + tax on the regular price of $89.99 at GardenWorks’ Lougheed and Mandeville stores. The remaining 50% is subsidized by the City of Burnaby. 

To qualify for this subsidized price, two pieces of ID proving Burnaby residency (like your driver’s license and a recent bill) are required. Payment is required at the time of order, and all sales are final, as nematodes are a special-order live product. Purchased nematode packages will be available for pick-up in mid-July, at which time the City will issue non-transferrable lawn watering exemption permits to buyers.

Questions and answers

Each package contains 50 million nematodes and the recommended application rate is 750 square feet (70 square metres) per package.

The nematodes that you order through GardenWorks are H. bacteriophora, they are a cruiser species of nematode that actively seek out chafer grubs, essentially moving through the soil to find them. It is recommended that you apply nematodes to the areas of your lawn where you saw the most grubs in the spring or the most damaged turf area. The City has a limit of 2 nematode packages per residential property in order for more properties to have access to this product. If you require additional packages of nematodes, you can purchase them through GardenWorks. However, the 50% subsidy does not apply on these additional packages.

The number of nematode packages is limited to 2 per residential property to ensure we can support as many residents with a subsidy as possible.

Yes. If you own more than one property you can order up to 2 nematode packages for each property, provided there are available packages. The program is limited and available on a first come first served basis. Proof of ownership of each property is required at the time of pre-purchase. 

To pre-purchase nematodes, you are required to present 2 pieces of ID showing Burnaby residency (government issued identification and a tax notice, utility bill or credit card bill). As the packages are limited, your property address will be checked to see if someone else has pre-purchased nematodes for your property.

Nematodes are readily available at many nursery and retail outlets in Burnaby and online purchases. The City is only providing a limited number of subsidized nematode packages as a means to encourage residents to follow sustainable landscape practices which align with the City’s Pesticide Use Control Bylaw.

No, the City cannot extend the pre-purchase of nematodes beyond May 31, 2022 because the final order to the supplier must be made by June 1, 2022.

Yes, multi-family complexes can order subsidized nematode packages. However, the limit of 2 per property still applies. Only 1 person (i.e. strata council member or property owner or rental building owner) can order nematodes on behalf of their complex. Each unit within the complex cannot order subsidized packages. Additional nematode packages can be purchased at various nursery and retail outlets in Burnaby. However, the 50% subsidy does not apply on these additional packages.

No. The nematode program is only for Burnaby residential properties.

Yes. A neighbour or relative can pre-purchase nematode packages on your behalf. They will require proof of residency for your property (i.e. photocopy of your driver’s licence and tax notice, utility bill or credit card bill), along with written and signed consent from the property owner stating whom they are giving consent to pick up the nematode packages.

Yes you can purchase nematodes from GardenWorks. However, you will not receive a 50% subsidy. Other in-store locations include: Canadian Tire, Home Hardware, Rona, Home Depot, etc. Other online locations include: Costco, West Coast Seeds, etc.

When picking up pre-purchased nematodes, GardenWorks Lougheed will provide your pre-addressed, pre-dated Lawn Watering Exemption Permit. The permit must be displayed in a visible location at the front of your property (i.e. the front window) so the public and City staff know you have a valid permit to water your lawn outside of the lawn watering restrictions. 

Have questions?

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