LAWN ATTACK: John’s encourages vigilante justice for crows

Night gathers, and now my watch begins.

Cambridge Crows Justice Lawns St John's College Student university vigilante

Over the last few weeks a number of Cambridge lawns have been “attacked” by a murder of crows (yes that is the collective noun), provoking an odd response from some of the colleges.

Chafer grubs and beetles have been eating away at the lawns of St Catherine’s, Emmanuel, Murray Edwards, Selwyn and Clare. Feeding on the roots of the grass, these pests make the lawns susceptible to damage.

However, what has been described by one concerned student as ‘the most serious issue facing the University to date,’ has been made far worse by the feathery menace Crovus Corone. The crows, feeding on the grubs, dig up the already weakened turf and ruin the lawns.

Gardeners have explained that the grubs enjoy light, sandy soils – and are therefore more likely to be found in colleges near the river cam. Colleges resting on clay soil, such as Robinson and Wolfson, are less likely to be affected.


These crows ‘aint loyal

In the midst of this lawn-based chaos, St. Johns’ have recognised that winter is indeed coming, and that they “cannot treat the grass until springtime.” Rather, in an effort to abate the destruction until then, they have encouraged students to “chase off” any crows seen to be damaging the lawn. All out inter-species warfare seems inevitable.

Chase them all away

Chase them all away

Meanwhile, Jesus college has been forced to re-turf their first-court lawn. In a post on the College’s Facebook page, it was revealed that “the situation has become quite severe over the last two to three weeks and large areas of lawn have suffered as a result…” They continued to state that “gardeners will apply topsoil and seed along with fertilizer (which the birds dislike) once the destructiveness has ceased.”

Selwyn College however, has taken a slightly different approach. The head gardener has opted for a new product which is not harmful to crows, stating that he will be happy to get rid of the grubs “as long as I don’t have a lawn full of dead crows.”


Murray Edwards has yet to okay frontier justice for crows. Photo: Sophie Penney/Varsity

To make matter even worse, the main way of dealing with these pests has been outlawed by an EU wide ban of bee-harming pesticides. Colleges are therefore opting to use nematode worms, which hopefully will eat the grubs (which are at the “root” of the problem). However this has had a limited effect, as the large lawns can be difficult to irrigate, making this method of biological control effective only over small expanses of land.


At least Brexit will help us take back control of our lawns.

Whilst we have yet to see whether any of these varied approaches are effective, it would seem that St. Johns, completely unable to fight these avian mavericks, have resorted to mob justice.

In other words, students aren’t the heroes John’s need, but the heroes they deserve.