Dear Angie: What is the best way to deal with lawn grubs? I am in Maine, and they are getting worse every year, along with the crows and skunks that are tearing up the sod to eat them. — David S., Orono, Maine
Answer: Skunks and birds feeding in your lawn are certainly a good indicator of a grub problem. Another sign of affected areas is wilted or brown grass, which is because they like to feed on lawn roots.
To check if you have grubs, you can carefully lift up a section of the sod and look under the grass roots for small, C-shaped white worms.
Unfortunately, there are several types of grubs and no one-size-fits-all treatment. Grubs are the larvae of beetles; from Japanese beetles, to June bugs, to European chafers.
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My first advice is that it's worth it to bring in a professional with experience treating grubs who can identify the specific type and then recommend the best course of treatment.
Some insecticides treat for specific grub types. Some products are most effective when grub damage is minimal. Other products work only as preventive treatments and won't be effective at eradicating existing grubs. Pick the wrong type of product and you're wasting your money and potentially damaging other beneficial microorganisms and insects in your lawn.
You could do a little research if you're up for closely examining the grubs to identify which type you have and then selecting the right treatment product.
In addition to the various insecticides, there are more eco-friendly options for grub control. One popular option to which more lawn care companies are turning is a microbial-based product, commonly referred to as "milky spore," which will kill off grubs as they digest it. The spore isn't harmful to the environment, but it works only on certain types of grubs. So, again, proper identification of the grub and then proper application of the product are key.
Another popular option is beneficial nematodes, which are microscopic worms that you essentially mix with water and apply to the soil. They carry a bacterium that eradicates the grubs but isn't harmful to other organisms.
If you properly identify the grub type you have and want to treat on your own, it's important to follow the treatment instructions carefully. Most grub control has to penetrate the soil to work. Apply the products improperly, and you're wasting your money.
Once you've treated for the grubs, it can take several weeks for them to die off, depending on the treatment type. So you might still see skunks and birds feeding on the dying grubs. If you've had significant damage to your lawn, it probably will need some extensive renovation.
That's why I go back to my original advice of contacting a highly rated professional lawn care company that can treat the grubs right in one application — probably for what it would cost you to treat them yourself and in a fraction of the time — and that can help you develop a plan to help your lawn recover.