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How To Get Rid of Lawn Grubs

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Author Image Written by Brenda Woods Updated 04/19/2024

Lawn grubs are pale white, squirmy larvae that can destroy your lawn from the roots up. Fortunately, these pests are only a problem in large numbers, so if you just have a few, there’s no need to worry. However, if you find a lot of grubs in your soil, you need to eliminate them to avoid damage to your lawn.

We’ll show you how to get rid of lawn grubs with natural methods or synthetic pesticides, as well as prevent them from coming back. We’ll also recommend some of the best professional pest control and lawn care companies to help you get rid of grubs.

What Are Lawn Grubs?

Lawn grubs are the wriggly, worm-like larvae of different types of beetles, like Japanese beetles and June bugs, that hatch in the spring and summer. These pests are roughly an inch long, curl up into a C-shape when disturbed, burrow into your lawn, and feed on your grass’s roots. In small quantities, they don’t cause harm. According to entomologists at Michigan State University, a healthy lawn may have up to five grubs per per square foot without suffering any damage. However, if large grub populations are left unchecked, they can leave your lawn looking patchy and uneven.

How To Tell If You Have Lawn Grubs

The first sign of lawn grubs is often irregular brown patches in your lawn. These could be caused by many different factors, but if you can pull up the grass easily, it’s a clear indicator that the grubs have chewed through the roots.

Increased animal activity is another sign. Grubs make up a large part of the diets of skunks, raccoons, and birds. If you notice holes in your lawn from digging or pecking, these critters might be after abundant grubs. If you suspect you have a grub problem, do a soil test.

Performing a soil test is a surefire way to tell if you have too many grubs. Start by removing a square foot of sod or grass, roughly 2 to 3 inches deep, preferably from a dry, brown area. Count the number of grubs you find. If you have a particularly large lawn, you may want to test several patches in different areas.
Five or fewer grubs: There’s no need to worry, and no treatment is necessary.
Between five and 10 grubs: This is slightly concerning, but you’ll only need to treat your lawn if your grass is unhealthy.
More than 10 grubs: The infestation is serious and you should take action right away.

Natural Ways to Get Rid of Lawn Grubs

You can pursue three natural options for getting rid of lawn grubs before turning to chemicals. These are safer for the environment and won’t harm beneficial insects, but they will take longer to be effective. In some cases, it may take years for the natural treatments to fully eradicate a lawn grub colony.

These are naturally occurring microscopic parasitic worms that burrow into the bodies of grubs, releasing bacteria until they completely kill off the host. This method is very effective, but it can take up to three years for full results. There are multiple species of nematodes, some of which only kill certain species of grubs, so do your research before purchasing them.
Garden stores, nurseries, catalogs, and even websites sell beneficial nematodes. Be sure to buy them from a reputable business and use them soon after you receive them—in order to do their jobs, they need to be alive. Additionally, follow the instructions for applying them carefully. Some nematodes will be sensitive to direct sunlight and should be applied only in the very early morning or in overcast weather. Water the ground thoroughly before and after the application. To kill an active grub infestation, you may need to reapply every two weeks.
This bacterium won’t harm you but is deadly to Japanese beetle grubs in areas where the spring soil is warm enough to allow the milky spore to thrive. Milky spore is typically sold in the form of a powder that needs to be applied using a tube-shaped garden dispenser so it can be absorbed into the soil without blowing away. Apply the powder in a grid pattern, dispensing about a teaspoon into the ground every 4 feet, and then water the yard.
Like beneficial nematodes, this approach can take several years to eradicate your grub infestation. Also, milky spore will only kill Japanese beetle grubs, not June bugs or chafers or other types of beetle larvae.
If you have a drought-tolerant, cool-season grass and live in a climate with little to no summer rain, you can make your lawn inhospitable to grubs by drying out the soil. Simply stop watering your lawn for three weeks to a month. Grub eggs and larvae need moisture to survive, and they will die without it. Unlike with beneficial nematodes and milky spore, this method may work in weeks rather than months or years.
Of course, this is risky, since it may damage the grass as well. However, cool-season grasses enter a dormant period during the summer heat and are likely to perk back up when watered. Just keep in mind that if it rains, this method will not work.

Pesticides to Get Rid of Lawn Grubs

If you want to rid your lawn of grubs in a hurry and ensure they don’t come back, using synthetic pesticides is the most surefire option. However, they may also kill beneficial insects like bees. There are two types of synthetic pesticide treatments.

  1. Curative: These eliminate existing larvae but won’t prevent future infestations. You’ll need to water your lawn before and after you apply a curative pesticide to make sure it gets soaked into the soil. The most common curatives include the ingredients carbaryl and trichlorfon. Different curatives may kill grubs at different stages, so the time of year you apply them may differ. Always read the instructions before applying any pesticide treatment.
  2. Preventive: These products will help prevent future generations of grubs from taking over. They’re typically applied in the spring when grubs haven’t yet hatched, though some may have more specific windows of effectiveness. Preventive treatments won’t be effective in the late summer or fall when the grubs are at their most active. Chlorantraniliprole, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and clothianidin are all active ingredients in preventative grub treatments.

Preventing Lawn Grubs

This Old House Tip
Keeping your lawn healthy is your greatest weapon in the battle against grubs. Beetles don’t like to lay eggs in thick, tall, healthy grass, so keep your lawn well-fed and mow high—about 3 inches or more. Additionally, don’t overwater, and overseed any bare patches. If you’ve had grub problems in the past, it may be a good idea to test the soil for grubs every 2–3 years.

If your grub infestation is severe or you aren’t having much success treating it yourself, call a professional lawn care or pest control company. They can help you create a seasonal plan to not only eliminate existing grubs but also keep them from coming back. Some lawn services even offer natural or organic treatments.

We recommend TruGreen for its extensive Grub Prevention & Control Services. A TruGreen specialist will start by monitoring the lawn for adult beetle activity, then apply insect control just before the hatching season.

This lawn care provider also offers five annual lawn care programs and additional a la carte services, so you can customize your treatment plan. To get a free quote, call 1-866-817-2287 or fill out this easy form.

Alternatively, if the grub infestation is part of a larger pest control problem, we recommend Terminix and Orkin for your pest control needs. Though they don’t offer fertilizer or other lawn treatments, they can eradicate grubs to keep your yard pest-free.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I treat my lawn for grubs?

You should use preventive grub treatments in late spring through early summer. However, if the grubs have already hatched, used curative treatments in the late summer and fall.

How do I know if I have lawn grubs?

There may be some obvious signs, like irregular brown patches of grass. You can also perform a simple soil test to see if you have lawn grubs. Pick up a square foot of soil or sod that’s roughly 2 to 3 inches deep, and inspect it for white, worm-like pests. 

Why do I have grubs in my lawn?

Grubs feed on the roots of many grass species, but some lawns are more prone to infestations than others. These pests find ryegrass very appealing.

How do I get rid of grubs in my lawn naturally?

You can rid your lawn of grubs naturally by using beneficial nematodes, applying milky spore, or drying out your grass.

Our Rating Methodology

We back up our pest control recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. We review pest control plans, navigate the provider website, speak with customer service representatives by phone and online chat (if available), request quotes, and analyze customer reviews for each provider. We then score the provider against our review standards for plans and services, reputation and customer responses, customer service offerings, workmanship guarantees, financing, and availability to arrive at a final score on a 5-point rating scale.

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