The City of New Westminster is temporarily suspending its European chafer subsidy program because of declining interest in the initiative.
Launched in 2008 in an attempt to combat the European chafer and to encourage a safe approach to dealing with the pests that were destroying some local lawns, the subsidy program provided New West residents with the opportunity of purchasing biological control (nematodes) at a 50% discount.
According to a report to council, utilization of the subsidy program trended downward between 2010 and 2014, before increasing in 2015. The number of subsidy coupons claimed from the city and redeemed by residents again declined starting in 2020.
“Given the current downward trend in the subsidy utilization rate, fewer damaged lawns observed throughout the city, and readily available new products containing Bacillus, which prove to be effective at a lower cost to homeowners, a suspension to the program is timely and can be reviewed annually as required,” said the report.
The parks and recreation department’s annual budget includes $10,000 to subsidize local residents’ purchases of nematodes each year, said the staff report.
On March 28, council approved a staff recommendation to temporarily suspend the European chafer management subsidy program and to direct staff to monitor the impacts of the suspension for the next two years.
A staff report states that the European chafer – Rhizotrogus – is a “serious turf pest that first appeared in New Westminster lawns and boulevards in 2001.
“The European chafer, in its grub stage, is very destructive to turn and lawns. The grubs feed on the roots of grasses during the summer and through to the spring,” said the report. “Considerable damage to turf can also occur in the fall and winter from animals, especially skunks and birds, digging up the grass to feed on the larger grubs.”
Each year, the city has made 250 coupons available, with 2018 being the top year for redemption, when 247 coupons were used. Since then, the number of coupons redeemed has fallen to 197 in 2019, 109 in 2020 and 70 in 2021.
According to staff, a microbial product that can be used to manage European chafer beetles was approved in Canada and is now readily available at most garden centres.
“Given the trending decline in subscription to the nematode subsidy program and the increasing availability of effective, lower-cost alternate products, it is recommended that the nematode subsidy program temporarily be suspend,” said the report.