Srinagar: If you have noticed that the greenery of your lawns is blighted, look closely at the discoloured patches. You will find whitish larvae like creatures. This is your culprit.
The larvae will grow into Chafer Beetles or May Beetles, known locally as neeje bumber. They flourish around this time of the year and if not controlled, experts say, they devour agricultural and horticultural crops.
Dr Abdul Rouf Wani, an associate professor at Division of Entomology, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences, Shalimar, said the beetles emerge out of the ground for mating and after the females lay eggs, they again retreat into the ground.
The eggs hatch into larvae, also called white grubs, which inflict the most damage.
Wani said a lot of people inquire about the ways to control this root-munching pest.
“There apparently is enormous growth of these pests as they have now well adapted to new their dwellings in our kitchen gardens and lawns where they thrive on the nutrient rich contents provided by us,” he said.
The incidence and severity of the pest has increased during the past few years, Wani said and added that certain species have migrated from forest ecosystem to field crops in hitherto un-infested areas.
Wani said these pests were primarily limited to forests but after expansion of agriculture activity, these have adapted to various crops and have been spotted in almost all areas of the Valley.
While the white grub is the most dangerous stage in the life of the beetle, the adults emerge in late spring during dusk in large swarms and prey mostly on chestnut, walnut, raspberry and other fruit trees. They also damage strawberry crop.
Potato crop grown in higher belts of the Valley for seed purposes is also damaged by the grubs.
Besides attacking agriculture and horticulture crops, the pest has become a menace for golf courses, pastures, historical Mughal gardens, children parks, football and cricket fields for the past several years, Wani said.
If eaten by birds, good riddance. But the protein-rich grubs can invite the attention of dogs, jackals and bears that rip the surfaces to pick these pests, mostly in golf courses.
Dr Wani said that the varsity has till date recorded 22 species of white grub.
The predominant species of Chafer Beetle (heteronychus robustus) showed single annual generation completing life cycle in 315-364 days.
The egg stage lasts for 8-12 days, grub period 288-326 days and pupal period 19-26 days.
He said the beetle stage can be controlled by spray of Chlorpyrifos 20 EC 1 ml per litre of water on host trees (usually cypress) during May.
He said the pests can be better controlled on community level as adult beetles fly up to a few hundred meters to lay their eggs that hatch a few weeks later, thus diminishing chances of control on individual levels.
During the grub period, several methods have to be adopted with guidance from experts. It involves spraying Cypermethrin, 3 ml per liter of water, and then drenching the lawns or the field in water.
Wani said that there are several natural predators of this pest and the best way is to increase their exposure by ploughing vegetable fields during day time so that birds predate on them.