Have you noticed small holes dotting your lawn? This is one of the most common signs of a grub problem. Grubs are beetle larvae from the invasive Japanese beetle and the June beetle. They love to eat organic matter in your lawn, especially grass roots. An abundance of grubs can cause serious damage to your lawn.
There are plenty of harsh chemicals on the market designed to eliminate grubs. But homeowners with pets and children who play outdoors are right to be wary of these products.
Instead, we’ll look at how to naturally get rid of grubs in the lawn.
To get rid of grubs in your lawn naturally you can introduce natural predators like birds, use environmentally-friendly nematodes and milky spore, or spray your lawn with a mixture of dish soap and water.
We’ll look at how to apply these methods and the best way to prevent future grub infestations!
Signs of Grubs in Your Garden
If you’re worried about the possibility of grubs, there are a few tell-tale signs that indicate a grub infestation.
Sometimes homeowners don’t realize they have a grub problem until they notice brown patches on their lawn. These distinct patches of dead grass usually appear around early autumn. Grubs feast on the grass’s roots to prepare for winter, which causes the grass above to die.
Another sign of grubs is increased wildlife activity on your lawn or garden. Certain animals, like skunks, voles, and birds, eat insects like grubs as a part of their diet. Large rodents, in particular, can dig holes in your lawn to search for grubs under the surface. If you notice any of these signs, you should check for grubs in your soil.
Since grubs are beetle larvae, you may notice an increase in flying beetles around your yard. Beetles like to lay their eggs on healthy lawns, so these beetles may signify that your lawn will be or is already infested with grubs.
What is the Best Natural Grub Killer?
Carbaryl or trichlorfon are common insecticides used to kill grubs. However, these insecticides contain toxic chemicals that can kill beneficial wildlife like birds and honeybees.
A safer choice for the environment is to use a natural grub killer. Here are a few of our favorite solutions.
Introduce Birds to Your Backyard
Birds are natural predators to larvae like grubs. If you introduce more birds to your backyard, they will do the dirty work of killing the grubs for you!
If you have the desire and the space, you can add a chicken coop to your backyard and house chickens. Chickens love to forage for grubs, so your lawn will keep them busy and well-fed.
If chickens aren’t for you, you can set up feeders to attract local birds. Not only will the birds feast on grubs, but you’ll also be able to enjoy their company.
Nematodes are microscopic beneficial parasites that travel beneath the surface of the lawn and attack grubs. They enter into grubs as a host and feed off them from the inside. Nematodes will multiply until the grubs are eliminated.
You can purchase nematodes at garden centers, usually in the spring. They like moist soil conditions, so it’s important to water your lawn regularly, so they stay alive long enough to do the job.
Although it can seem strange to introduce a parasite to your yard willingly, beneficial nematodes are safe for pets and humans. They won’t even harm earthworms! And once they’ve done their job, they simply decompose into the soil.
Milky spore disease first became commercially available in the United States in 1948. It was primarily designed to control Japanese beetle infestations. When beetles or their larvae ingest the bacteria, the spores reproduce and turn their internal fluids white. However, ingestion does not necessarily mean death since the bacteria may simply pass through the larvae.
Milky spore can only spread if temperatures are warm enough. They prefer soil temperatures between 60-70°F (19-21°C). So, the best time to spread milky spore powder or granules on your lawn is early fall when grubs are actively eating but temperatures haven’t cooled completely. As an organic pest control product, milky spore is not harmful to other beneficial insects, pets, or humans.
Dish Soap and Water Spray
Dish soap is a miracle worker around the house and can even help you control grubs. Simply mix water with dish soap and use a pump sprayer to spray your lawn. The water forces the grubs to the surface, where the dish soap then smothers them.
Experts recommend mixing 4 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of dish soap. Dawn is the best brand since it’s safe for wildlife and pets.
What Attracts Grubs to Your Lawn?
Grubs are attracted to thick, healthy green lawns. They prefer long grass since it has longer roots for them to feast on. Since grub worms also need moisture to burrow into the ground, well-watered laws are a common target.
To create an unwelcome environment, make sure you keep your grass short. A maximum of 2 inches (5 cm) of growth is a good rule of thumb. Try to run sprinklers less frequently to help dry out your lawn.
How Long Do Grub Worms Live?
Grubs go through four stages in their life cycle: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. At the adult stage, grubs turn into beetles and can reproduce.
The entire life cycle of grubs, from egg to adulthood, is one year. June beetle grubs are unique as their life cycle is three years. Beetle eggs are usually laid in early summer and hatch in about two weeks. The larvae ramp up their feeding in early autumn as they mature when homeowners typically notice signs of an infestation.
Although grubs only stay in the larva stage for 1-2 months, they can do lots of damage in that time. Once they mature, the cycle repeats itself every year if the grubs aren’t removed.
Will Grub Damaged Lawn Grow Back?
Although grubs are destructive, the damage can usually be repaired. What’s great is that the repairs are relatively easy to do yourself.
The first step to repairing a lawn damaged by grubs is to rake away the dead grass. This will leave space for you to lay grass seed. Next, you’ll need to aerate the soil and overseed your lawn.
If any grass has been torn up by digging animals, you can set the turf back in place, and it may re-root on its own.
Can You Put Grub Killer Down With Grass Seed?
If you’re laying down grass seed in the spring and notice grubs, you may want to use grub killer simultaneously. There’s nothing wrong with laying down both together. Grubs don’t eat grass seed so they will have minimal impact on their growth.
However, trying to kill grubs in the spring is difficult. They aren’t as active as in the fall, so common grub killers like milky spore won’t be effective.
If there are only a few grubs per square foot of grass, it’s best to wait until late summer/early fall to spread your grub killer.
Will Epsom Salt Kill Grub Worms?
Epsom salt has garnered a reputation as a fix-all for many gardening-related issues. Some gardeners swear by Epsom salt as a fertilizer. Others use it as a natural pest repellent. But is there any truth to these claims?
Epsom salt is made from sulfate, magnesium, and water. None of these ingredients are well known for their pest-fighting abilities. Epsom salt isn’t useful as a fertilizer either since it lacks the macronutrients nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.
Not only are grubs unpleasant to look at, but they also seriously damage your lawn. If you don’t control a grub infestation, the problem will only worsen as more beetles mature and lay eggs.
The easiest and least invasive solution to get rid of grubs is simply encouraging birds to feast on your lawn. If this isn’t an option, try using safe, environmentally friendly solutions like nematodes or milky spore. Another natural solution is to spray your lawn with dish soap and water to smother the grubs.
It’s always best to apply any grub-killing substance in the fall. This is when grubs are most active, and you have the best chance of eliminating them.