Not all of your pest problems are plainly obvious to the naked eye. While nobody can mistake the signs of a rat intruding into your pantry or roaches invading your personal space, pest problems are often found in even greater numbers outdoors. And to make matters even more difficult, sometimes the worst pest problems aren’t even located somewhere you can see outdoors. Such is the case with grubs.
A “grub” is a common term used to refer to various type of insect larvae that spend the early stages of their life underground. Specifically, grubs love to live in your lawn, as it provides them with cover, protection, and a plentiful source of food—grass roots. If you notice that your lawn is starting to look sickly, ill, or even like it is dying completely, the problem may not be the warm weather that accompanies the end of summer. Grubs are a two-fold source of frustration for homeowners because not only do they destroy your lawn, but they come back later as a full-grown adult insect, causing ongoing pest issues that can make your yard an unenjoyable space.
Do I Have a Grub Problem?
The easiest way to identify a grub problem is to monitor the health of your lawn. If it seems like small patches of your lawn are dying rather rapidly, then you may have a grub issue. Take a look at these dying areas and see if you can lift one up—if the turf lifts like a piece of unsecured carpet, then you absolutely have a grub issue. Grubs feast on grass roots, and when they eat through the root supply in a particular area, that grass dies because it can’t absorb any water. Likewise, because the grass doesn’t have any roots holding it into the ground, it easily lifts away from the ground below it.
Another way to know you have a grub problem is to keep an eye on the behavior of other animals that feed on grubs. Skunks, armadillos, raccoons, birds, moles, and even voles have been known to feed on grubs, and will dig through your grass to find them. If you find large, dug-up holes in your lawn (particularly in one of these dying or dead areas) then there’s a good chance that an animal has caught a whiff of grubs and gone for a feast.
Finally, the grass under your feet will also tell you if you have a grub problem even before it starts to die. Grubs burrow under the ground to try and find roots to feed on, leaving loads of hollow tunnels in the ground. These tunnels make the ground feel soft and spongy, sort of like freshly-laid sod. You may not be able to see the tunnels clearly, but feeling them should be enough of an indication that grubs are an issue on your property.
Stopping the Grub Problem Early
The secret to stopping grubs from being such an ongoing pain is to simply eliminate them before they can mature. Reducing or even eliminating grubs from your lawn will greatly reduce the number of adult pests in your yard, including common annoyances like beetles. While it may not be possible to entirely eliminate grubs from your property, you can make significant strides toward keeping them at bay permanently.
The first step is to treat for grubs. There are a number of great products available on the market that you can spread over your lawn to directly target grubs in the ground. Depending on the product, it’s generally best to apply either during late spring to early summer (when grubs mature into adults) or during late summer (when adults mate and lay eggs in your lawn that hatch into grubs). Check the label on your product to see when you should apply. The majority of these products are applied with either a sprayer or a granule spreader—two common household gardening tools.
The second easiest way to eliminate your grub problem is even simpler: maintain your lawn. A healthy lawn is a lot more resilient, and can quickly recover from grub damage to maintain a beautiful and uniform look. A weak, struggling, or diseased lawn will show grub damage far faster, even with a smaller number of grubs per square foot compared to a healthier lawn. With regular mowing, fertilizing, feeding, and treatment, your lawn will not only look healthier, but it will actively resist grub invasions as well.