Pesticide ban has resulted in ‘golf courses churned up by crane fly larvae’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 8, 2021 08:02

Greenkeepers are struggling to cope with an infestation of crane fly larvae on golf courses, following a ban on pesticides, according to a newspaper report.

The Telegraph states that thousands of larvae laid by crane flies are chewing through grass at several golf clubs.

In 2016, chlorpyrifos, the chemical used to kill the larvae, was banned in the UK due to developmental issues it has been linked to in children, including brain damage, learning difficulties and ADHD.

The damage to golf courses and other sports fields comes after crane flies, commonly known as daddy long legs, lay their larvae, known as leatherjackets, under the turf.

The grubs then eat away at the roots of the grass, while damage is also done from above when predators such as badgers and birds dig up the grass to seek them out.

Greenkeepers have said a wet autumn and dry spring had exacerbated the problem, because a lack of grass roots to suck up moisture had led to sludgy conditions over the winter, while current dry weather means reseeding grass is difficult.

Another chemical remedy is available but it can only be used on very limited areas and at certain times of year, while a natural remedy, nematodes, is expensive and not always effective.

Ian Kinley, of Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Wales, said lockdown had allowed him to tackle the problem by using plastic sheets placed on greens to trick the grubs into thinking it was night time, bringing them to the surface and allowing them to be cleared away, but that the culture needed to change.

“There needs to be an understanding of the problem and how there is not a lot we can do in the short term. You can implement cultural practices but it’s a long, drawn out process with no guarantees.

“End user expectation probably hasn’t changed, despite the fact we have these chemicals removed from use and the damage incurred as a consequence is significant,” he said.

Dan Kendle, greenkeeper at Newquay Golf Club, said he knew course managers who were considering quitting due to the stress caused by the infestations and the resulting criticism from golf club members.

“I’m absolutely devastated at the level of damage we’ve had on the course.

“It’s heartbreaking for my team to not be able to do anything about it and then you hear the comments that members are saying, just because they don’t understand,” he said.

Paul Shepherd, course manager at Nizels Golf Club in Kent, said golfers were moving clubs because of the issue only to find that their new courses were also plagued by it.

“We had a lot of our members leave. Because pardon the pun, the grass is greener somewhere else. And now this year, their grass isn’t quite so green as ours. So they come back.

“There have been a few clubs close because of it, I’m absolutely certain of it. And there will be more,” he said.
Karl Hansell, of the British and International Golf Greenkeepers’ Association, said a survey had found that 99 per cent of 400 respondents had had issues with the larvae.

“We didn’t use to get contacted about this problem, but now we’re seeing through our channels on a daily basis, members appealing for support, appealing for help.

“Greenkeepers are a passionate bunch about the courses they produce, often too much, and we’re getting a distressing number of people contacting us asking us for help,” he said.

Golf courses have become increasingly conscious of their role in encouraging wildlife and nature, he said, so most did not want a return of the chemical.

“Golfers want to see wildlife, now when they play, they want to see wildflowers in the rough areas. They’d rather that than a snooker table. So I think everybody’s moving in that direction,” he said.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 8, 2021 08:02
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  1. Boss May 10, 14:10

    Some courses I know have only themselves to blame as they have shot the crows et al which are the main things that gobble up these larvae!

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  2. GCMA May 9, 19:51

    This is a huge issue for our industry. If you’re a GM, a club owner or a club Board Director, please give this the attention it needs and your green keeping teams every bit of support that you can.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Stoke by Nayland May 9, 10:03

    So sad. The reality of Course Managers contemplating walking away due to stress is tough to read!

    Reply to this comment
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