Ashburnham Golf Course has been experiencing problems with Chafer Grubs since the beginning of 2011 – Paul Hopkins, the Head Greenkeeper, returned from holiday to discover a sight that he’d been dreading discovering. They had experienced problems in the previous two years in the rough areas of the course; however this was the first year that the problem had moved out onto the fairways. In previous years it had simply been a matter of repairing the damage caused by predators seeking an easy lunch. At one stage 48 magpies were dispatched over a 6 day period. However this didn’t resolve the problem and Huw Morgan, the Golf Club Manager, had to resign himself to removing the food source of the predators.
There are six species of Chafer Grub in the UK: the Welsh Chafer, Summer Chafer, Brown Chafer, Cock Chafer, Garden Chafer and Rose Chafer. The most familiar being the Cock Chafer or ‘May bug’, a large beetle that can be heard as a low droning noise on pleasant spring evenings. The grubs feed on the roots of grasses and other plants, their presence can be detected by the yellowing patches that it creates in turf. Chafer Grubs can be found in the soil under the loose turf. They have stout white bodies curved in a C shape, light brown heads, with three pairs of legs and darker patches at the base of the abdomen. They are bigger than the adult beetles although their size varies according to species, 8-35mm. They live within the soil for up to 3-4 years going through various ‘instars’ as they develop. The real damage to turf is done by predators such as starlings, rooks, crows, jackdaws, magpies, foxes and badgers that make the most of an abundant high protein food source lying just beneath the surface.
Huw Morgan, the Golf Club Manager at Ashburnham, has many years of experience as the Course Manager at The Wildernesse Golf Club in Kent. Huw became aware of the problem and appraised the options that were available to him. Huw contacted Ray Hunt, a technical advisor at ALS, qho has 34 years extensive experience in golf course management at both links and inland courses with six PGA European tour events including two British Masters. Ray was able to recommend the application of nematodes. The ALS Contracts team has applied biological control methods such as nematodes extensively and effectively on previous jobs. The species of nematodes, Heterorhabditis megidis, is host specific and only feeds on white grubs such as Chafers.