Councillors call on MP Victoria Atkins to help stop the garden destroyer

Devastated: A lawn damaged by chafer bugs in a garden off Lincoln Road in Horncastle. Picture: John Fieldhouse
Devastated: A lawn damaged by chafer bugs in a garden off Lincoln Road in Horncastle. Picture: John Fieldhouse

Forget ‘The Ghostbusters’...it’s Horncastle Town Council which is leading the fight back against the dreaded chafer grub.

The grub has decimated huge swathes of green spaces across Lincolnshire with Horncastle among the worst affected areas.

A chafer grub.

A chafer grub.

Homeowners have been left with bills running into thousands of pounds after the grubs destroyed lawns.

Now, councillors have had enough.

They have agreed to write to local MP Victoria Atkins - a Home Office Minister - calling on her to start the process of discovering a new environmentally friendly chemical that will kill the grubs.

The only other chemical suitable is banned under EU regulations .

Deputy Mayor, Coun David Roark called for the ban to be lifted when he spoke at a town council meeting last week.

However, Coun Dominic Hinkins warned the chemical also killed bees and other insects and was active in areas where it was applied for up to 20 years.

As a result, councillors decided to call for a ‘friendlier’ treatment to be manufactured.

Councillors are hoping the request will be under Ms Atkins’ remit at the Home Office.

Coun Roark, who is a landscape gardener, said: “I know it is a problem all over Lincolnshire, but it is affecting Horncastle really badly.

“There is only one insecticide, and about two years ago it was banned.

“Since then, the infestation has got worse .

“This year is especially bad. People thought the ‘Beast from East’ and the long, hot summer would have knocked them back, but it’s not happened.

“People are saying to me: ‘We can’t afford to pay for a new lawn and the same happen again.’

“We are losing lawns and green spaces.

“If you talk about Tudor Park, there are only four or five lawns left. It’s the same all over town - Mark Avenue, Langton Hill, Accommodation Road.”

Coun Hinkins said he could not support bringing back the banned insecticide.

He said: “I understand how people are upset and angry when their lawns are being damaged, but there are no easy answers.

“I feel quite strongly that we can’t lobby for something that is damaging to the environment to be brought back into use.”

Mayor Coun Brian Burbidge said he had used ‘nematodes’ - a species of worm that eats the chafer bugs - with some success.

However, Coun Roark said his experience led him to doubt whether nematodes worked.

He added: “It’s getting very, very bad. It’s not bits of lawns...it’s whole areas.”

• Horncastle’s Deputy Mayor told councillors action needed to be taken as soon as possible to stop the decimation caused by chafer grubs.

Coun David Roark said he could show councillors more than 50 lawns in the Horncastle area that had been seriously damaged by infestations in recent weeks.

He said the only option in many cases was to dig up entire gardens and cover them with either concrete or pebbles.

He warned that unless something was done, the infestation would become even worse.

Coun Roark said: “People don’t realise what is happening until it is too late..

“Once you’ve got them (the bugs), that’s it.

“They bury themselves. Where I’ve been asked to take up lawns, it looks like hailstones.

“There are thousands of them... absolutely thousands.”

Coun Roark said a number of people thought they had ‘got rid’ of the bugs...only for them to return.

He added: “You only have to walk round the town and you can see all the concrete and pebbles that were once lawns - it’s terrible.”

According to the RHS, species of chafer grubs eat the roots of grasses and even other plants.

Damage to lawns is most obvious between autumn and spring when the grubs are reaching maturity.

Birds, particularly of the crow family (jays, magpies, rooks and crows) and badgers and foxes tear up turf in order to access the grubs to feed on them.

The grubs can be up to 18mm (almost ¾in) long.

The RHS says: “Chafer grubs, and larger animals that feed on them, can quickly turn a lawn into something that resembles a ploughed field.”