At every golf course I've ever worked at, theres always been a pest that seems like the 'chief' problem. At Egypt Valley it was the skunks; at Teton Pines it was the voles; and here at Mount Juliet, its the crows. But each one of the problem creatures were not actually the real pest. The real offenders were what these troublemakers were looking for to eat. Last week this became very apparent to me by way of finally seeing what the crows were looking for.
Since being at Mount Juliet, I have noticed a very large crow population in the area. These birds normally only cause distress to the golfers by way of their shrill calls or theft of a snack (I personally witnessed a crow fly off with a fully intact Snickers bar from a buggy cup holder), but here, I started noticing more and more damage that was being left behind in their wake. They were targeting fairways and tee boxes, and leaving fairly large amounts of damage. It looked as though someone was coming in overnight and doing a very sloppy aerification job. The crows beaks are the same size as a one inch tine, but are much more abrasive than any steel tine we use.
I did a little research, and confirmed with the course assistant superintendent Robert that they were searching for leather jackets, or the immature larval stage of the European Crane Fly. This made sense, but it hit home when I looked at a piece of sod that was pulled up from the 18th fairway, and saw for myself hundreds of dormant leatherjackets. Now I know why the crows were coming in by the hundreds to invade our course. It was like a free buffet for easy prey!
An application was made a day later of Chlorpyrifos, or, Dursban, which is an insecticide thats purpose is to neutralize the leather jackets, or European Crane Fly larvae. Another application was made later to just ensure coverage, and at the end of the week, the crow populations were already thinning at Mount Juliet, and the flocks were moving on to other woodlands. Through a little more inquiry, I found out that this is an annual application that normally made around a period of elevated rainfall, to water in the pesticide. Due to the alarmingly high population of crane fly that was discovered, however, we felt as though the time was right to take preemptive measures instead of reactive ones that might have come too late.
There were many times that I wanted to dispatch the crows myself because of their excessive noise and damage, but I now know that sometimes the problem isn't the obvious pest... the real problem is what is attracting the obvious pest to the area.
I will take this lesson with me wherever I go, because sometimes a little patience can pay off in not only in energy, but time and money.