Japanese Beetle Turf Industry Economic Impact Study Released

Well known as a highly destructive insect pest to multiple field and ornamental crops, the WCTA responded to the 2017 Japanese beetle incursion into the False Creek area of Vancouver by commissioning a study attempting to determine just how much this nasty insect pest could cost the turf management industry if it were to gain a foothold and spread.  Jim Ross, former Executive Director of the Prairie Turfgrass Research Centre was hired fto find out.  

One of about 2000 Japanese beetle traps spread throughout BC’s lower mainland is checked by a CFIA technician for the last time this year on October 9th.  No beetles were detected in this trap.

The only other econommic assessment available was released by the BC Ministry of Agriculture this past April however numbers were from Oregon with what seemed like high crop damage estimates.  Also, while golf courses were categorized and included in the report, sportsfields and other functional turf areas were not.  



Potential Economic Impact of an Infestation of Japanese Beetle on the Turfgrass Industry in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia
By Jim Ross



The potential economic impact of a widespread infestation of Japanese Beetle on the turfgrass industry in the lower mainland of British Columbia and Vancouver Island would be considerable.  Turfgrass is the most widely used groundcover and, as such, is estimated to cover almost 250,000 hectares in this region.

A survey that was conducted in 2003 in New York State is the only extensive survey that has been conducted in North America which presents the size and scope of the turfgrass industry.  Values from this survey were extrapolated to provide relevant data for BC.  Although there would be expected differences between the US and Canada, this survey provided a complete picture of the overall industry.

A previous report developed in 2017 by the BC Ministry of Agriculture took into account two sectors of the turfgrass industry and affixed a value of $13.8 M.

There were six different sectors of the turfgrass industry used to calculate the overall economic impact.  If a widespread infestation occurs it is estimated that the economic impact would be $73.85 M.


During the summer of 2017 adult Japanese Beetle was discovered in the False Creek area of Vancouver.  At that time close to 1000 adult beetles were captured in trapping efforts with 88% of the adults collected in David Lam Park.  In 2018 adults began to emerge in mid-June and the adult population was considerably higher, as was expected.

The threat of the establishment of an adult breeding population is high in British Columbia due to a favourable climate and the presence of host plants.  Japanese Beetle is well established in North America and a recent infestation in Portland, Oregon shows that the development of an adult population is possible in a similar climate.

The origins of the beetle in the lower mainland are unknown.  In other areas, airports are thought to be one of the main sources of incoming adults.  However, the infestation in British Columbia is somewhat removed from the airport so importation of infested plant material is a probable source.

Japanese Beetle has shown to be a devastating pest of over 300 species of plant material and if it establishes in British Columbia the economic impact for small fruit, nursery stock, and agricultural producers will be very high.  In response, producers will have to spend more on pest monitoring and treatment to manage the threat.

In an economic analysis paper written by the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture (Huepplesheuser and Woodske, 2017) it was estimated that the potential crop damage caused by the beetles would cost producers $14.5 M (excluding turfgrass losses).  The paper stated, ‘In addition to direct crop damage, nurseries in British Columbia will need to meet costly certification requirements to export into unregulated states in the US.  Even if nurseries meet the export requirements, some US clients may be unwilling to purchase BC-grown product due to the risk of introducing Japanese Beetle.  The major markets for local nurseries are pest free areas in the Pacific Northwest.  Establishment of Japanese Beetle in the province will threaten live plant exports to the US, which had a value of $90 million in 2016 (Statistics Canada).’

In addition to direct damage to plants, the establishment of Japanese Beetle in British Columbia will lead to an increase in pesticide use by the public and commercial growers, which could be harmful to pollinators and other non-target organisms.

As far as an economic risk for turfgrass is concerned the authors used a formula from an Oregon Department of Agriculture survey for golf courses and sod production based on 1.6% crop loss for both sectors.  An economic survey of the British Columbia golf industry estimated that the total direct economic activity from golf was $2.88 billion and that the direct cost of turf damage was estimated to be $13.6 million.  Sod production was estimated to have a direct cost of $0.2 million.  Other sectors of the turfgrass industry were not estimated.

This paper will further discuss economic risks to the turfgrass industry in British Columbia that takes into account all sectors and the potential economic risk.

About the Japanese Beetle

Female adults lay eggs in lawns and turfed areas soon after they emerge from the pupae stage.  Eggs hatch within two weeks and begin to feed on roots throughout the summer.  Larva will overwinter as the final instar stage by burrowing further into soil to avoid cold temperatures.  According to information from researchers at University of Illinois temperatures below -10oC would kill the larva (Raymond and Cloyd, 2003).  Much of British Columbia never sees temperatures this low and the lower mainland and Vancouver Island will be potential areas of infestation. 

The larvae prefer to feed on the roots of grasses, which can result in wilting and yellowing of turf.  However most of the damage that occurs on turf during the larva stage is mainly as a result of birds and animals foraging for the larva (James Skorulski, United States Golf Association Agronomist, personal conversation).  In very high infestations, dead patches of turf can develop which can reduce playability and create safety issues for athletes using impacted turf.

Adult beetles feed on a wide range of plant foliage, which causes serious defoliation to small fruits, nursery stock and other agricultural products.  Turfgrass is not thought to be an important part of the adult Japanese Beetle diet.

Japanese Beetle has been established for many years in Southern Ontario and the north eastern United States, so it is not surprising that an infestation has spread to the western part of North America.  The beetle has been detected in Portland, Oregon and their beetle response plan is attached.

Monitoring and Control of the Current Infestation 

As mentioned, an adult population has established in David Lam Park in the False Creek area of Vancouver.  A regulated area has been established with the intent of controlling the infestation to that area so that it does not spread to other regions.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), who is coordinating the control efforts, point out that effective control of the beetle may take as long as five years.

In order to monitor the infestation, an extensive adult trapping program has been established throughout the lower mainland and Vancouver Island to determine if, and where, further infestations may occur.  Adults can relocate by flying short distances and are considered to be accomplished ‘hitchhikers’ which attach themselves to vehicles, maintenance equipment and clothing.

The control program within the regulated area includes restrictions on the movement of potentially infested plant material.  Plant material cannot be removed from the regulated area from mid-May to mid-October and must be taken to a temporary transfer station.  Equipment and tools must be free of soil, plant material and grass clippings prior to leaving the regulated area.

The most effective control of the beetle is thought to be the application of a pesticide during the first larva stage.  As mentioned above, adult females lay eggs soon after emerging from the pupae stage and eggs hatch within two weeks.  In the regulated area within Vancouver, spraying of turf with the pesticide, Acelypryn, took place in late May and early June, 2018.  This application will not impact the adult population in 2018 but will reduce and/or control infestations in 2019.  This spraying program may continue for a number of years.

Economic Risk to Various Turfgrass Industry Sectors

Japanese Beetle has been reported to feed on over 300 plant species and is a particular concern to small fruit, vegetable and nursery stock growers.  As the lower mainland has a high number of these growers control is essential to ensure the long term safety of their businesses.  Crop loss would be high which, in turn, would have a great economic impact.

The turfgrass industry has a number of sectors that would be directly impacted by a high infestation of Japanese Beetle.  Crop loss and its effect on sales would be a direct cost to individual businesses, particularly sod production.  However, there will also be significant costs associated with increased labour and maintenance, pesticide treatments, cost to replace turf and increased inspections by the CFIA and other government agencies overseeing the safety of the various crops.

Surveys of the turfgrass industry have been conducted in western Canada and the nation as a whole, but the only extensive survey of the various sectors of the turfgrass industry was conducted by the New York (NY) State Department of Agriculture and Markets in 2003.  The economic analysis paper written by the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture only reported the golf course and sod production sectors of the turfgrass industry, and for that reason the New York survey has been used to extrapolate economic impact information for this report.  The New York survey reported on 13 different sectors, but for the sake of simplicity a number of sectors have been combined for this report.

In order to extrapolate information, the population of the lower mainland and Vancouver Island was combined and then compared with the population of NY (a conversion factor of 0.175).  Total area of turf for each sector was itemized in the NY survey and area for BC was then determined by multiplying NY area by the conversion factor.  Labour and maintenance costs were also used from the NY survey to attempt to determine a potential economic impact on the BC turfgrass industry.

The BC Ministry of Agriculture report estimated an annual crop loss of 1.6% which was extracted from a similar report developed by the Oregon Ministry of Agriculture.  This seems like a realistic figure for all sectors, except sod production.  If an infestation occurs on a sod farm there will also be a significant loss of sales.  Cost to re-establish lost turf was estimated to be $2500 per hectare, a figure also extrapolated from the NY survey.  Currency conversion as well as current day pricing was taken into consideration.  For the other sectors cost to establish new turf was used if there was not a loss of sales.

For labour/maintenance costs the crop loss value of 1.6% was once again used to determine additional costs for the various sectors.  Many individual facilities would require a pesticide application to control the infestation and these costs were estimated at $2250 per hectare.

Cost of development of the control program and monitoring/inspections by CFIA and other agencies were not calculated for this report as these did not directly impact growers.  However, considerable costs have been incurred on these agencies since the program was initiated in Vancouver.

Finally, currency exchange and inflation of 2% was used to calculate values in today’s Canadian currency.  A conversion factor of 1.65 was used.

As far as the individual sectors were concerned, one of the most striking facts presented in the NY survey was the area that was designated as private residences, 82% of the total area.  This factor was not calcuated into the previous BC economic impact report and adds greatly to the potential overall economic impact of a widespread infestation. 

In this portion of the paper, a discussion of the economic risk to the various sectors will be presented.

Sod Production (all farms affected)

Estimated size of farms: 575 hectares
Estimated economic impact: $23,540,200

The sector that has the potential to suffer the greatest economic impact from an infestation is sod production. Most sod farms have a new crop every two years so the economic impact on the farms was calculated at 50%.

Listed below are various factors that could impact sod production.  These factors may also affect some of the other sectors but are presented here because they are all relative to this sector.

1. Crop loss - If the sod farm is designated as infested no sales will be permitted until control is achieved and it passes inspection by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).  At an average sod cost of about $7.50 per square meter, this would result in a loss of $75,000 per hectare.

2. Cost of monitoring - The CFIA states that if the sod farm is in an infested area, but is not considered to be infested, a monitoring plan must be put in place to scout for adult beetles.  The plan states that there must be one trap for each 5 hectares which are baited with a lure consisting of an attractant and a pheromone.  Traps must be monitored weekly and renewed by the facility at regular intervals during the adult flight period.  The cost of the traps and the labour to install and monitor was not factored into the overall economic impact.

If no beetles are captured at that site, the site meets the criterion for shipping sod to pest free areas.  If one or two beetles are captured at that site, the detection does not represent an established population of JB.  If more than two beetles are captured in total from all traps, the sod production site is considered to be infested.

Once infested, the site can only be certified by the CFIA.  In order to be certified, the facility must develop and implements a Japanese Beetle Management Plan (JBMP) which ensures that certain practices are incorporated into their operation and will be achieved. A map illustrating the layout of the facility must be presented and documentation must be kept up to date.  Development and management of this plan were not factored into the potential economic impact.

3. Disposal of plant material – As mentioned plant material can only be disposed of at a designated site within the regulated area.  Costs are factored into maintenance costs. 

4. Removal of plant material costs – In addition, the facility will be directed to remove plant species upon which adults feed in areas adjacent to the production area.  This could be a large expense which was not factored in.

5. Cost of larval treatments - Sod must be treated according to product label directions with a pest control product registered by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) which is recognized as an effective treatment.  As mentioned above costs are $2250 per hectare.

6. Cost of adult treatment - Application of an pesticide recognized as an effective treatment against Japanese Beetle adults may be required.  This treatment program must also be maintained on the sod farm periphery where adults are observed to be feeding.  Large trees may be exempt as these may be difficult to spray.  These costs were not factored into the potential economic impact.

7. Costs of further pest monitoring and inspections.  Not factored.

If a full blown infestation occurs an estimate of the economic impact is itemized below.  Fortunately, there are no sod production operations within the current regulated area.

Potential Crop loss: $21,563,000
Yearly pesticide costs: $1,294,000
Yearly labour and maintenance expenses: $660,000
Costs to establish new turf - $23,200

Golf Courses

Size of described area: 7100 hectares
Estimated economic impact: $13,179,600

The estimated economic impact to golf courses mentioned in the BC Ministry of Agriculture report took into account all golf courses within the province and then based an estimate of crop loss at 1.6%.  As the lower mainland and Vancouver Island make up 75% of BC’s population the crop loss was estimated to be $10M.

The USGA Agronomist for the North East region of the United States, James Skorulski, was consulted and provided consider insight into a region that has fought the beetle for at least a couple of decades.  He indicated that Japanese Beetle, as well as Oriental beetle, create some crop loss but that most of the injury was as a result of animals and birds foraging for the grubs.  He indicated that many of the high end golf courses made an annual single application of the pesticide, Acelepryn, to fairways and roughs that had previous infestations.

Potential crop loss:  $10,000,000
Yearly pesticide costs: $255,600 per year
Yearly labour and maintenance expenses: $2,640,000
Costs to establish new turf - $284,000

Lawn Care

Size of described area: 19,750 hectares
Estimated economic impact: $3,976,000

Removal of plant material and soil out of the regulated area is strictly prohibited.  Those lawn care companies that work in regulated areas will incur fees to drop off plant material and soil to the temporary transfer station.  The fees range from $25-75 depending on the size of the load and were factored into labour and maintenance expenses.

Movement of equipment in and out of the regulated area will be a challenge for all those working in the area.  Sanitation of equipment, tools and clothing must be done prior to leaving the regulated area.  This will mean the removal of soil and plant material through thorough cleaning and washing of equipment and tools.  In addition equipment, vehicles and clothing need to be checked for adult ‘hitchhikers’ prior to leaving the area.  This may add to labour costs that will be difficult to recover.

It is difficult to estimate increased costs of operation as it will depend on how much work is being done in the regulated area.  No doubt costing new projects within the regulated area will need to be higher.  These costs will be passed on to the consumer

Potential crop loss:  factored into new turf establishment
Yearly pesticide costs: $711,000 per year
Yearly labour and maintenance expenses: $2,475,000
Costs to establish new turf - $790,000

Parks, Sports Fields, and School Grounds

Size of described area: 8485 hectares
Estimated economic impact: $1,594,060

Many of the same considerations for these turfed areas will need to be incorporated in the logistics of mowing and movement of plant material.

Most school districts and parks departments move equipment from site to site to conduct mowing and maintenance operations.  This may necessitate cleaning and sanitation of equipment after completing operations within each of the sites within the regulated area.

In addition, fees to drop off grass clippings, plant material and soil at the temporary transfer station could be significant for those operations within and close to the regulated area.

Once again, it is difficult to estimate the cost of an infestation, but it is obvious that that there will be direct and indirect costs that will have to be passed on to the consumer.

Potential crop loss:  factored into new turf establishment
Yearly pesticide costs: $305,460 per year
Yearly labour and maintenance expenses: $990,000
Costs to establish new turf - $298,600

Home Lawns

Size of described area: 200,200 hectares
Estimated economic impact: $29,269,000

Although statistics were not available for British Columbia, private residences made up 82% of the turfed areas in the NY study.  The average size of a NY residential lot was 320m2 and the homeowner spent an average of 13.5 hours mowing and another 10.7 hours on other lawn maintenance activities.

Homeowners spend considerable resources on maintaining their home lawns, gardens and ornamental trees.  The destructive nature of Japanese Beetle in the home landscape means that more may be spent on other plant materials.

Potential crop loss:  factored into new turf establishment 
Yearly pesticide costs: $7,207,000 per year
Yearly labour and maintenance expenses: $15,015,000
Costs to establish new turf - $7,047,000

Other Turfgrass Areas

Size of described area: 6675 hectares

Estimated economic impact: $2,290,560

The NY study described other turf sectors commercial sites, churches, cemeteries, apartment buildings, airports and fairgrounds/race tracks.  These sites combined show the diversity of use for turf as it is used in so many ways as a universal groundcover.

Potential crop loss:  factored into new turf establishment
Yearly pesticide costs: $240,600 per year
Yearly labour and maintenance expenses: $1,815,000
Costs to establish new turf - $234,960