The lush green of a golf course is by far the most valuable asset a club has, and therefore the golf course parasites that can come to infest it are an existential threat to that club. Therefore, regulations that banned the previous pesticides used to remove these parasites open up new questions – how should golf clubs deal with their pest problem?
The most notorious of these are probably the leatherjackets, the larval form of the crane fly. Each one is only around 25 mm long, but a host of them can wreck a green more efficiently than an actual mechanical crane could. Leatherjackets eat the roots of grass, causing mass death across the green. They also provide tasty morsels for badgers, weasels, rodents, etc. This can lead to further damage as predators rip up the turf to eat them. Even in death, the leatherjackets are a plague.
Leatherjackets: Unusual Solutions
To add insult to injury, normal methods of killing leatherjackets, such as nematodes, can also be difficult to implement. Nematodes are tiny parasites that can devour leatherjackets, and so smearing paste containing them across a field can wipe out its leatherjacket population. However, nematodes can only survive in certain environments. Extreme heat or cold can kill them. This can limit how and when they can be deployed on soil.
What makes the problem more complex is that there doesn’t seem to be a single magic bullet solution. Some golf clubs have tried to use flocks of birds (such as crows) to eat the leatherjackets. Unlike other predators, birds do relatively less damage to the turf when they peck out the grubs. Some clubs have tried using sheeting to draw the leatherjackets out of the turf. However, this can cause scheduling conflicts for golf courses, since the sheets will need to be removed. As we have talked about previously, keeping people coming on and off the golf courses as fast as possible is the number one priority of a club. Therefore, using sheets can interfere with that goal.
Leatherjackets: Extreme Measures
Some golf courses have even tried to use the insecticide Acelepryn. Despite only being available after applying for an emergency use exemption, this is a long-term solution, since it does not kill living leatherjackets but rather destroys leatherjacket eggs. The lower level of poison means it does not violate restrictions on the more potent pesticides used previously. However, regulations may someday change, and it may no longer be available for emergency use at all.
Relying on a single artificial solution may make a club less resilient if that solution becomes banned. Ultimately a combination of factors may be required to fight the leatherjacket plague in an organic fashion. At Mango Golf, we believe in using a bespoke selection of methods for each club. If your club is struggling with leatherjackets or any other pest and you wish to speak to people with decades of hands-on golf management experience, book your free 30-minute consultation today.