Grub infestation destroying Lincoln Square park

A beetle grub infestation at Welles Park is so bad that it has rendered five acres of the15-acre park virtually unusable, because it is all mud.

Pest experts have rarely seen this level of infestation on display at Welles and are not quite sure of the root cause.

"The infestation at Welles Park is fascinating," said Rebecca Fyffe, Director of Research at Landmark Pest Management. "We rarely see an infestation of that magnitude."

Fyffe has recent personal experience with grubs, having lost her entire strawberry crop to them earlier this year. Grubs feed on grass roots and other plant roots and are normal for parks, but not in these numbers. As for what may have caused the infestation, she says flooding may have forced thousands of them up toward the surface.

"My guess is that there were more beetles than there were other species to forage on them and keep them in balance," Fyffe said.


Normally, species like birds, skunks, racoons, moles and chipmunks manage the grub population. But it remains a mystery how that didn't happen this fall.

"It's possible that some of the larvae were eggs that were laid as long ago as several years ago," said 47th Ward Alderman Matt Martin, who says entomologists will soon work try to identify the species of beetle grub involved, and come up with a game plan so it does not happen again.

"Once the football season is over, which will happen at the end of this week, the park district will be finalizing its treatment plan, making sure that whatever happens from a treatment standpoint is harmful to the grubs but not to people or animals — particularly dogs," said Martin.

The western half of the park is still usable, even the grassy areas. If you are looking to avoid this rather gross situation entirely, residents on the North Side are encouraged to use either Horner or Winnemac parks, nearby.