Although most homeowners expect to find some worms in their soil, no one expects the severe damage that one particular worm can inflict. Yes, we mean the peculiar damage left by the white grub worm. Grub worms feed on roots, and with a large enough population and some time, they can actually detach your grass from its roots in some areas.
What does that look like, you may wonder? These severed areas of grass will literally roll up like a cheap rug. So if you think you have a grub problem and you'd like your grass to stay put, then it's time to snub those grubs from your lawn.
What are grubs?
Grub worms, also known as white grubs, are actually the larval stage in a beetles' growth cycle. Grub worms are off-white in color with brown heads, pudgy bodies, and three pairs of legs. They usually lay in a c-shape when they are exposed.
If you've spotted these grub worms in your lawn, don't feel too special. White grubs are common all across America, and the yards of North Texas are no exception.
According to the Texas A&M, the most prevalent turfgrass infesting white grubs in Texas are the June beetle and the southern masked chafer. These grubs affect both warm and cool-season kinds of grass, and they can cause significant damage to lawns.
May beetles are also common in Texas and frequently feed on cool-season grasses. The damage May beetles inflict appears in spring and summer, before other white grubs' damage is noticeable.
So just how do these c-shaped grub worms hurt lawns? Grubs feed on the root systems of grasses, and that’s where they can cause major damage. It’s important to note that grubs are not harmful to people or pets.
However, when the grass is damaged at the root level, it becomes challenging for your lawn to sufficiently intake water and nutrients. And, therefore, the grass in your yard can not thrive.
To properly treat a grub worm infestation, it is critical to understand where grubs exist in the beetles' life cycle…
Make sure grubs are actually the problem.
If you've started noticing brown patches in your lawn and simultaneously unearth a white grub, you may jump to believing that grubs cause your discolored grass. In fact, there are dozens of common and uncommon lawn issues that can cause grass to turn brown. It also normal for lawns to have some grub worms.
Treating your lawn for the wrong issue is a waste of time and money. So before you jump to blame the grubs, check for these specific signs of grub damage.
Lawns damaged by grubs will show these symptoms:
- Irregular-shaped patches of dying grass.
- Grass thins and turns brown.
- Grass may feel spongy as you walk on it.
- Grub worms attack the root structure holding the grass firmly in place, so visibly weakened areas may be easily pulled and rolled away, almost like a rug.
- Depending on where you are in Texas, the damage will appear sometime between June and October.
- You may notice an increase in animal activity. Animals such as raccoons, armadillos, and birds may be frequenting your yard to feed on the grub worms. Look for mole holes or tunnels.
If your lawn checks off the items on the list above, it's time to conduct a test to find grub worms. Use a shovel to dig up or peel back a damaged area of your lawn. The testing area should be about 3-5 inches across and 3-5 inches deep.
The next part is simple but slightly unpleasant…count the worms! Knowing how many worms inhabit your small testing area is crucial. Having some grubs is normal and should not be harmful to a lawn.
If you find less than 5 grubs in your testing area, then the grubs are probably not your problem. However, if you find 5 or more grubs in your test area, it's time for treatment.
How to get rid of grubs in your lawn.
If you have confirmed that grub worms are injuring your lawn, then the time to act is now! These worms can cause significant yard headaches, but thankfully there are many treatment options. The trick is to know which part of the beetle life cycle you are treating. There are both preventative and curative treatment options for most parts of the beetle life cycle, but for treatments to have any effect on grub worms, timing and product choice are crucial.
Not all yards and yard problems are created equal. If you have a lawn that suffers from repeated annual grub worm infestations, you may want to lean towards a preventative treatment to eliminate the larval grubs as they hatch. The best time to apply any preventative grub worm treatments in Texas is between mid-April and May when the worms are hatching and actively feeding.
Conversely, if your lawn is experiencing grub damage for the first time, you'll want to treat the grubs that you have right away, depending on what part of the life cycle you're seeing.
There are some products that treat larval grub worms as they hatch, and some other products can eliminate adult beetles that swarm your lawn to lay their eggs. Choose the treatment option you are most comfortable with, and that is the most effective for the time.
For example, attempting to treat grub worms in the winter while they're hibernating as "pupae" is ineffective. No matter what natural or chemical product you choose to use, always follow the directions.
Maintaining a healthy lawn is the best way to manage grub worm populations. You will notice any damage right off the bat, and your yard will be able to better survive the havoc that grub worms can cause to roots.
You should also clear thatch away from your lawn before treating for grubs. Thatch is the layer of dead organic matter that blankets lawn soil, and it should never be thicker than ½ inch. Thick thatch will block any treatments from making it to the soil.
The Natural Approach
Nematodes are tiny beneficial worms that will attack and kill destructive soil insects like grub worms. Nematodes are an environment-friendly grub removal technique that you can try. They do not harm humans or your lawn, and they are readily available for purchase.
Nematodes have been proven to help reduce grub worm populations. However, the catch is that it can take 1-3 years for the nematodes to establish a population strong enough to eradicate your grub worms.
Nematodes will require water to be pushed down deep enough into the soil to where the grubs live. You should water the day before applying nematodes, so the ground is softened up. Then water again after they have been applied. Only add about ¼ inch of water after, so you don't cause runoff.
Milky Spore Disease
Milky Spore is a microbial bacteria pesticide that is commonly used to treat grub problems. However, there are two big issues with this treatment – one, milky spore (like nematodes) can take years to develop enough beneficial bacteria to eradicate grub worms. Reason number two, this treatment is only effective against the Japanese beetle. Therefore, milky spore disease is not generally effective against the white grub beetle species most often found in Texas.
Here’s a straightforward grub treatment that can be fun to try – spikey shoes! According to Texas A&M, studies have shown moderate success controlling grub worms by wearing spiky shoes across your yard's affected areas. This tactic has been shown to successfully eliminate half of a grub population in one yard.
Dawn Dish Soap
This treatment is another classic home remedy that has been shown to destroy grub worms. Applying Dawn dish soap smothers grub worms, and typically kills them quickly. To try, use 1 tablespoon Dawn in one-quart water and spray the mixture on the affected areas of your lawn. Check after an hour or so to see if the grubs are still alive. If they are, spray the worms directly with the Dawn mixture.
The Chemical Approach
In lawns that are severely damaged by grub worms, the root system will sever from the grass. And trust us – you don't want to wait to treat grubs till they have your whole lawn rolling up like a carpet.
This isn't one of those situations when you cross your fingers, hoping you'll find original wood flooring under the carpet. Damage done by grubs can ruin the appearance of your lawn for seasons to come. Thankfully, there are many effective preventative and curative grub worm products available.
Chemical products should be chosen based on the size and maturity of grubs. Products only work for certain types of grubs, so make you figure out specifically which species and size grub you have. Proper timing and application of products are essential.
Choose a product that fits your preventative or removal needs based on which part of the beetle life cycle you're in. For example, treating grubs in the winter and early spring while the worms are hibernating in their pupae phase is ineffective.
Some lawns in Texas never have a grub problem while other lawns are damaged annually by grub worms. Preventative options can drastically reduce the damage caused by grub worms. The best time to apply preventative grub worm treatments in Texas is sometime between mid-April and May when the worms are hatching and actively feeding.
Curative treatments are available in liquid or granule form. You should choose whichever type you are more comfortable with. Curative treatments are used against the larger, older grub worms that are already active in the soil.
Apply about ¼ inch of water immediately following the application of any grub products to help move the product into the soil.
The Professional Approach with Gecko Green
For preventative and curative treatments to have any effect on grub worms, timing and product choice are critical. Effectively treating grub worms is difficult! Let Gecko Green remove that guesswork from the equation for you – and remove the grub worms simultaneously!