Christ’s College were tentatively hopeful about the future of their college lawns today, following attempts earlier this year to eradicate a lawn-eating pest that had been plaguing the grounds.

The Cockchafer beetle, which feeds on the roots of grass, has been decimating the lawns of the college, which was once home to the world-renowned naturalist Charles Darwin. However, following efforts earlier this year to eradicate the beetles, the lawn showed signs of recovery this week, as fresh grass began to emerge.

The hoards of Cockchafer beetles, famous for their large numbers, appeared in the First Court lawns around two years ago, and the gardening staff at Christ’s have been struggling with them ever since.

An attempt last year to eradicate them by introducing Nematode worms, which feed on the Cockchafer beetles, proved unsuccessful, and the famous circular lawn continued to suffer.

Lottie Collis, the Deputy Head Gardener at Christ’s College, said that, “The lawn was absolutely riddled with big brown patches. It looked awful and really upset everybody”.

Following complaints from academics, a last ditch attempt was made to rid the college once and for all of the half inch pests, and in January this year gardeners dug the entire 1,740 square feet of the First Court lawn, leaving it bare for two months, in the hope that the combination of frost, birds and pesticides would finally kill off the Cockchafers.

The beetles, also known as May beetles or Sprang beetles, live under the lawns, and come up during the hotter months of summer to feed on the roots of the lawns. They receded into near extinction across England following the introduction of pesticides in the 20th century, but stricter pesticide regulations, bought in during the1980’s, have lead to an upsurge in their numbers in recent years.

Ms Collis described the Cockchafer - latin name phyllopertha horticola - as, “horrible little things. They are about an inch long and have little brown faces.” Christ’s, however, were hopefully that the emergence of the fresh grass this week signalled the end to their beetle troubles.

However, even if the grass, which was reseeded in mid-March, does flourish in First Court this year, we still may not have seen the end of the Cockchafer. Dr. Geoffrey Ingham, honorary garden steward at Christ’s noted that the “adult beetles lay eggs in grassland, which develop as grubs for up to four years, feeding on roots”.

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