Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Chafer Beetle Dance - Too Close for Comfort

Sometimes you make a discovery you wish you never had. Last night was one of those nights.

I was out visiting the garden at twilight, and noticed something buzzing about my Rainier cherry tree. Earlier in the day, I had discovered a chafer beetle resting on a branch, and had wondered if I should pluck the little bugger out of there and squish the life out of him, or drown him in the potty, but being bare handed, I decided I would just let him be for the time being.

In case you don't have European Chafer infestation in your neighbourhood, let me provide a layman's summary of what you're missing. The beetle, which is brown, oval and slightly smaller than a honeybee, lays its eggs under the lawn in summer. Then the grubs, which are ghostly white and a disgusting curled up C shape, overwinter under the lawn, completely unknown to the poor homeowner, eating away the roots of his grass. By spring, the grubs are big fat and juicy, and irresistible to crows and raccoons, which rip up chunks of the grass (which has already been weakened by the grubs by all their munching on the roots), to get to the juicy grubs, and leave the lawn a clumpy, unsightly mess. Serious infestations require starting the lawn again, from seed.

There is no real known prevention (although keeping the lawn healthy and not trimmed too short supposedly help), nor effective treatment (except perhaps some nematode treatment which requires very specific timing and conditions for them to be effective in killing the grubs). So the infestation spreads throughout the city, leaving random spots of mangled lawn behind.

So you guessed it.... Last night I realized that this buzzing was a chafer beetle, buzzing about the top of my cherry tree. Then I noticed another, and another. I looked toward my plum tree, and the same buzzing about there. In the neighbour's yard, too, near the top of each small tree, there were a couple of beetles, buzzing around in a mating dance.

I had read about this mating dance, high up in the tops of trees. But our trees are only 6' to 8' tall. So there were the beetles, buzzing around directly in front of me. I didn't know whether I should reach for my camera, or a fly swatter, or what. But as I stood, wondering, disgusted by these little creatures, the mosquitoes decided it for me. I retreated into the safety of the house, already stinging from a few bites.

It is interesting... if these had been ladybugs, or dragonflies, or some other creature welcomed in my garden, the whole experience would have been quite enchanting, perhaps even romantic. I would have braved even the pesky mosquitoes to capture some memory of it on video camera. But instead, the thought of these little beetles frolicking in my trees, so they could come down and lay eggs, so their disgusting offspring could destroy my lawn, tainted my view of this spectacle.

On a happier note, the dragonflies - which are my favourite friend in the garden - have returned in full force to our yard this summer. On most days, I can spot one or two darting about the lower yard, and a few more darting about the upper yard, but today I saw more than a dozen at the same time, darting in every direction. I can only hope that they caught a few chafer beetles while they were darting about.

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