You’ve seen lawns around the region destroyed by animals and birds searching for a juicy chafer beetle snack. Now there’s a new beetle in town. And it’s even worse! The Japanese beetle is threatening lawns, gardens, and landscaped areas in Vancouver. In response, steps are being taken by local and federal authorities to prevent this invasive species from spreading throughout the rest of the region. But anyone who cares for a garden or lawn can also play a role. Here’s some of the things to look out for, and some steps you can take.
What is the Japanese beetle?
The Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) is a small bug approximately 15 mm long and 10mm wide, with iridescent copper and green colouring. The larvae feed on the roots of grass and just like the chafer beetle, crows, skunks, and raccoons will tear up lawns to eat the beetle larvae.
What does it do?
Damage. And lots of it. More destructive than the chafer beetle, the Japanese beetle doesn’t just attack lawns. Over 250 species of plants are food for the adult beetle, whose voracious appetite includes roses, perennials, fruit trees, and countless other landscape and food plants.
When did the problem start?
The beetles were first spotted in a trap in the False Creek area in August 2017 – the first time it has been found in BC. However, it has been in North America since the early part of the 20th century, probably arriving with shipments of iris bulbs from Japan, before commodity inspections were a standard protocol in the US (1912). It began showing up in Northeastern Oregon residential and agricultural lands circa 2016. Over 900 beetles were trapped in the False Creek area in 2017. This year over 100 were caught by the end of June.
How are authorities addressing its spread?
The response to the arrival of Popillia japonica has been swift. A coordinated approach to eradicate the Japanese beetle in Vancouver is already underway. The federal government has ordered that plants and soil can’t be moved out of a quarantined area bounded by Burrard Street in the west, from English Bay up to West 12th Avenue, along 12th from Burrard to Clark Drive, and in the east along Clark Drive from East 12th to Burrard Inlet.
The City of Vancouver and the provincial government are also working together to stop the Japanese beetle. In June, a larvicide called Acelepryn was applied to boulevards, medians, and lawns on public property. Nine parks were also treated: David Lam Park, George Wainborne Park, Coopers’ Park, Charleson Park, Sutcliffe Park, Emery Barnes Park, May & Lorne Brown Park, Crab (at Portside) Park and Thornton Park. The larvicide is not harmful to humans, pets, other animals, or pollinators like bees and butterflies. You can learn more about scheduled treatment dates and the City of Vancouver’s plans regarding the Japanese beetle on their website: https://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/japanese-beetle.aspx
How can you help?
If you live in the quarantined area, the most important thing you can do is abide by its restrictions. That means until further notice the movement of rooted plants and soil out of the quarantined area is prohibited year round to avoid spreading the larvae. The movement of above-ground plant parts such as grass, leaves and branches out of the quarantined area is prohibited between June 15 and October 15, which is the flight period of the adult beetles. You should continue to put yard clippings in your green bin. If you need to dispose of excess yard waste, or materials mixed with soil such as root balls and sod, you should do so at the City of Vancouver’s temporary transfer station at 301 West 1st Ave. Complete information for this facility, including open hours and materials accepted, can be found here: https://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/disposing-of-green-waste.aspx
If you see what looks like a Japanese beetle anywhere in our region, please call 1-800-442-2342 to report it, or log your sighting online with the federal government at: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/about-the-cfia/contact-us/eng/1299860523723/1299860643049#form-formulaire
Don’t disturb or remove any Japanese beetle traps you may see over the coming months.
Immediate Action Protects Local Agriculture and Ecology
Invasive species can do real damage to local crops and ecosystems. Beyond the ugly plant damage and inconvenience for gardeners, invasive species like the Japanese beetle could cost local farmers millions of dollars and threaten local food security. Left unchecked, the beetles could also spread further into parks and other natural spaces, ultimately impacting the ability of those areas to provide the clean water, fresh air, and recreational opportunities upon which we depend. However, with continued cooperation between governments and support from the public, the Japanese beetle can be managed and its impacts minimized.