Take steps to prevent costly grub infestation

In many parts of the country, now is the time of year to treat your lawn for grubs. Neglecting preventive treatment or ignoring key warning signs of grub damage, could be an expensive mistake.

“They can do thousands of dollars’ worth of damage” to your lawn, said David Tice of Tice Lawn Maintenance in Prospect, Conn.

“It’s not cheap to do lawn restoration. It’s kind of expensive, and it costs twice as much to kill them as it does to prevent them — just for the product — never mind the damage that they do.”

There are several different types of grubs — which are the larva of beetles that like to feed on grass roots — with the most common coming from Japanese beetles, June bugs and European chafers.

As a result, there are also a variety of treatment options depending on the type of grub and whether they’ve done lawn damage or not.

Identifying potential grub issues can be a challenge for the average homeowner, in part because the damage often mimics drought-ridden grass.

“That’s the most difficult thing about grubs,” said Wes Ory of Heritage Lawns &Landscape in Olathe, Kan.

“Because that larva is below ground, and it’s feeding on the roots of the plant, there aren’t a lot of signs or indicators you have a problem until you start seeing brown spots show up in the lawn.”

Another indication of a heavy grub population is birds, skunks, armadillos and other animals — depending on the part of country they’re in — feeding on grubs in the lawn.

“Skunks, raccoons and birds like to eat the grubs,” Tice said. “You’ll just come out one morning and see a huge patch of lawn ripped up and that’s usually an indication you have a grub problem.”

If you fear you have a grub problem, Ory recommends grabbing a section of damaged grass, or green grass near the damaged grass, and try to lift that area like you’re pulling hair.

If you can easily lift up a section, chances are you’ll see active grubs, which are usually small, C-shaped white worms.

“It will lift up like a piece of carpet and you’ll see the larva in there,” Ory said.

Homeowners with lush, green lawns are more at risk for grub issues than areas with dried lawns.

“They like hot, sunny areas,” Tice said. “When the beetles are flying in the air, they’re looking for green grass in a time of year when the grass is usually not green.

“Usually, they lay their eggs in that area because they know a root system is there, and the babies will have food to feed on. Very rarely do you find any grub damage in shaded areas.”

Grub treatments can range in price, on average from about $75 to $200, depending on the type of treatment and the size of the area affected. Ory recommends applying a preventative product in mid-July. If damage is already done, a more aggressive treatment likely will be required that’s tailored to treat your specific grub issue.

Because there is a wide array of grub types, homeowners concerned about grub problems should consult a professional on the best course of treatment.

Some products work best when grub damage is minimal. Others work only as preventive treatments and won’t kill existing grubs. Use the wrong product and you’re not only wasting money, you could potentially damage other beneficial microorganisms or insects in your soil.

“The timing (of the application) is the most critical part of it all,” Tice said.

If you have extensive grub damage, you’ll likely need to reseed that area of the lawn.

“The parts that have already turned brown aren’t savable,” Ory said. “Those have to be torn out and reseeded. That’s why it’s pretty devastating when you do have them. They can do a lot of damage in a hurry and a lot of people don’t recognize it because it’s drought season.”

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care; www.angieslist.com.

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