How to Control Grubs in Your Lawn

by Hannah Stephens
Closeup of white earth worm

Unlike most baby animals, lawn grubs are a baby animal you definitely won't want to cuddle. Lurking beneath the surface of the soil, these troublesome creatures can wreak havoc with your lawn if left unchecked, so it's essential to look out for their presence.

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How Do You Know If You Have Grubs in Your Lawn?

The most obvious sign of grubs in your grass is seeing the critters in the garden, but they're often impossible to spot because they live underground. Therefore, you may not see them unless you dig up areas of your lawn. 

Grubs feed on grass roots, eventually causing severe damage. Knowing how to spot grub damage to your lawn can help you identify the problem early and get rid of the creatures before they destroy large areas. Common signs include:

  • Brown grass
  • Patchy grass growth
  • Weak root systems that allow you to pull the grass up easily
  • Spongy, springy earth
  • Increased weed growth

Grass grubs are the immature form of insects such as craneflies and chafer beetles — in other words, they're baby bugs. Therefore, you should suspect an incoming grub infestation whenever you notice adult insects around your lawn.

Several animals like to eat lawn grubs, and spotting them in your yard could also signify a grub issue. Birds, raccoons, moles and other wild animals often visit areas with abundant grubs. You may also notice telltale signs of animals digging for food, such as holes and disturbed areas of grass. 

Knowing when to look out for grass grubs can help you determine whether you're dealing with an infestation or another lawn issue. While lawn grub season can vary slightly across different regions, you'll most likely notice a problem in late summer and fall.

You can confirm a lawn grub infestation by watering an affected patch of lawn in the evening and covering it with black plastic. This technique causes lawn grubs to move to the surface, so you'll see them when you remove the plastic in the morning. Transfer any grubs you find into a container and leave them out to feed any visiting birds.

What Are Some Methods for Getting Rid of Grubs in Grass?

You can purchase grub control products containing pesticides to eliminate lawn grubs at any stage of their development. If you've already noticed signs of grub damage to your lawn, choose a lawn grub treatment designed to manage an active infestation. Following the instructions on the packaging is essential because different insecticides require varying application methods and timings. 

Some homeowners prefer to avoid using pesticide-based grub killers in their gardens. That's because they contain chemicals that harm potentially beneficial bug species, such as dragonflies. In this situation, you could try applying bacteria called milky spores to your lawn. This type of grub control eradicates Japanese beetle grubs but won't kill other lawn grub species. 

Nematodes are another natural way to tackle lawn grubs. These microorganisms invade and feast on grubs, killing them without posing a risk to other wildlife. They survive best in damp soil, so you should water your lawn regularly for at least two weeks before applying nematode-based products.

If none of these methods are suitable, you could try creating a welcoming habitat for birds, wasps and other lawn grub predators. For example, placing bird feeders around your garden can encourage birds to visit and hopefully stay to munch some grubs in your grass.

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How Do You Prevent Lawn Grubs From Coming Back?

Grub-producing insects are less likely to lay eggs in healthy lawns with deep, strong root systems. Therefore, good lawn care can help keep these pesky critters at bay. Effective lawn care techniques include:

  • Mowing your lawn frequently
  • Never removing more than a third of the grass length per mowing session
  • Using a sharp mower blade
  • Watering your grass early in the morning to promote drying and reduce the risk of common lawn diseases
  • Feeding your lawn with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer
  • Regularly removing broadleaf weeds such as dandelions and plantain
  • Dethatching your lawn with a thatch rake
  • Aerating your lawn once per year
  • Reseeding patchy areas
  • Mulching your lawn in the fall to feed it over winter

If you've previously experienced a lawn grub infestation, applying a preventive grub killer can stop them from returning. Purchase a grub control product designed specifically for prevention, as these stop the eggs from hatching.

Alternatively, you could consider allowing your lawn to go dormant during midsummer by not watering it for a few weeks. Insects are less likely to lay their eggs on hard, dry soil, but the downside of this method is that you'll have a brown lawn. Although dormant grass is still alive, how long it can survive without water depends on the grass species and your local climate.

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