Lawn Grubs: How to Identify, Get Rid Of and Prevent Them

Updated on April 6, 2016
Lawn Grub or White Grub or Grub Worm
Lawn Grub or White Grub or Grub Worm | Source

It was an early October morning . . .

I was up early just after sunrise. I opened the back door to let the dog outside and was shocked at what I saw.

The grass was all torn up. Kind of like a "grass massacre" (see photo below). I shook my head and looked again wondering what happened overnight. My first guess was that a deer got into the yard and dug up the lawn. That's what it looked like. But it didn't make sense because the yard is entirely fenced in.

My next thought was some other kind of animal, yet why? I mean this mess was pretty bad.

My early morning surprise!
My early morning surprise! | Source
A closer look.
A closer look. | Source

Figuring Out What Dug Up My Grass

I took a rake and a big garbage can to start cleaning up. As soon as I pulled a patch of grass, I saw them!

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! GRUBS! White ugly, creepy, wormy-like lawn grubs!

But how could these little worms make such a mess?

Types of Beetle Larva that Damage Lawns

There are several types of beetle larva (called lawn grubs, grub worms or white grubs) that damage grass including larva from the

  • June Beetle
  • Japanese Beetle
  • Green June Beetle
  • Masked Schafer Beetle
  • Black Turfgrass Ataenius Beetle

What are Lawn Grubs (often called White Grubs)?

A classic lawn grub or white grub is a whitish C-shaped larva of a beetle (such as June beetles) that are about ½ inch in length. The beetles typically lay their eggs during mid summer in sunny areas of the lawn. Their larva (lawn grubs) live in the soil eating on the roots of grass and other organic matter leaving it dry, brown and dead.

Eventually grubs turn into adult beetles and come out of the soil to mate and lay eggs which hatch into more grubs.

Was this the culprit?

Source

Lawn Grubs Attract Unwelcome Wildlife

Not only do grubs damage the lawn, their presence also attracts unwelcome wildlife. These critters have no concept of “property lines” and can easily find their way into even a fenced in yard.

Animals such as raccoons, skunks, moles and other rodents will feed on lawn grubs. They will strip away your grass or dig tunnels underneath in search for one of their favorite delicacies.

Important note: Many of these animals including birds also dig your lawn to find earthworms. Always confirm that grubs are present before pursuing a lawn treatment.

Identifying Lawn Grubs

Late summer or early fall: Lawn grub damage is usually visible from late summer and peaking in the early fall. If you have irregular patches of grass that are brown and dry, check to see if a patch easily peels away from the soil. If a patch of grass lifts up like a carpet with no roots holding it down, you likely have an infestation of lawn grubs.

In the spring: As your lawn begins to green up, look for brown patches that never turn green. These dead patches of grass may be grub damage from the previous fall.

Dry patch from grub damage.
Dry patch from grub damage. | Source

WAIT – Some Grubs are Okay

As you inspect your lawn to identify that grubs are present, it’s important to know that a healthy lawn can easily support some grubs without the need for any type of treatment.

To determine the extent of the infestation, dig and lift several sections of sod the size of one square foot by approximately three inches deep. Then follow the guidelines in the table below.

Number of Grubs within a Square Foot
What To Do
0-5
No need to treat
6-9 in a healthy lawn
If lawn is healthy, no need to treat
6-9 in a stressed lawn
A less healthy lawn may require treatment, especially if animals are digging up the grass
10 or more
It's likely that the lawn will continue to be further damaged and will require a treatment plan

When to Apply a Lawn Grub Treatment

Grubs are larger and no longer feeding in the spring, therefore they are less susceptible to treatment. In addition, spring rains can easily wash away a treatment.

Midsummer to early fall is the best time to treat lawn grubs because at this point, grubs are small, immature and closer to the surface.

I got rid of the dry patches and cut the grass before treatment.

Get rid of the dry dug-up patches and if you can, discard any grubs you come across.
Get rid of the dry dug-up patches and if you can, discard any grubs you come across. | Source

Simple Grub Control Options

Birds: Do what you can to attract birds to your yard using bird feeders, bird baths and nesting homes. Birds eat bugs including grubs.

Beer: Another lawn control option that is said to work is to set a beer trap. Use an old plastic bowl approximately three inches deep by six inches in diameter. Dig a hold so the bowl fits to where the top lip of the container is at ground level. Pour beer in the bowl.

Types of Grub Treatment Products to Consider

Always read the instructions and follow them carefully when using any type of lawn treatment. There are difference applications with different ingredients recommended for killing lawn grubs and/or preventing them.

Curative Products: Curative products will kill existing grubs on contact.

Preventative Products: Preventative products will kill grubs that are present at the time as well as those that may hatch throughout the season.

  • Dylox – fast acting and most effective in the fall.
  • Merit and Mach-2 – used early in the season as a helpful prevention.
  • Milky Spore – effective and environmentally safe. Used on active grubs and as a prevention.
  • Neem Oil – a botanical pesticide that repels against beetles and lawn grubs.
  • Nematodes – a soil-dwelling worm that releases bacteria into the soil which in turn, infects and kills lawn grubs.

This is the product that I used.

Reseeding After Lawn Grub Treatment

Dead lawn patches should be reseeded. For me, it’s currently too late in the season. So I’ve cleared out most of the patches, treated the lawn with Scotts GrubEx, will also soon spread Winterizer fertilizer and then reseed in the spring. And hopefully, my yard will remain grub free!

This is Sharyn’s Slant


Great video on ALL TYPES of insects that damage lawns.

Questions & Answers

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      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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        Sharon Smith 5 weeks ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi Kimmy,

        I really can only advise you to read the label on the bag first since all products may be different. And yes, SO nasty! Good luck!

      • profile image

        Kimmy 6 weeks ago

        Hi , can I treat my potted plants with any grubs killer ? Bec at one time I repotted one of my plant and I found out that it has grubs inside the pots ,, it’s so nasty

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
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        Sharon Smith 3 months ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi Alexi,

        I would check what they say on the bag of what you use to get rid of the grubs. Make sure you can plant vegetables in the same area. It may/should give you a timeline like "do not plant vegetables for at least 6 months after treating."

      • profile image

        Alexi 3 months ago

        Hi, Can I dig up the grass ,get rid of them and turn the area into a vegetable patch ? I was thinking of treating the area first

      • profile image

        Brenda Hawkins 6 months ago

        Hi we have a new puppy and an 18 year old dog, both vaccinated, and I regularly pick up the big dog Poop, now we have the puppy even more so as I now am starting to let onto back lawn supervised sometimes on a lead sometimes not. Whilst picking up the poop I noticed the Grubs, are they harmful to the dogs?

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hello F.A. ~ Grubs are definitely nasty. There are treatments that will not harm birds and other creatures. Definitely check it out to determine if you actually have enough of a grub infestation that warrants a treatment. Thank you for stopping by.

        Sharyn

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 5 years ago from USA

        Thank you for writing about this. They are nasty, and I've been reluctant to treat them for fear that I might harm birds and others.

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi Natasha ~ ha, you made me giggle when you said that they are frightening. That's because I truly understand that statement. I really was in shock when I woke up one morning to the terrible damage. It was pretty creepy. I hope you never experience that again. Thank you for your feedback.

        Sharyn

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi faythef ~ you got that right! Grubs are extremely ugly. I'm so glad you found this article helpful. Thanks for stopping by.

        Sharyn

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi pinto2011 ~ you are very welcome. Sorry to hear that grubs have invaded your life too :( Good luck. I appreciate you stopping by.

        Sharyn

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi Vicki ~ yes, the damage is incredible and it happens overnight!! Thanks so much for your feedback!

        Sharyn

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi Sharkye ~ OMG, that is really gross about grubs burrowing into animals. Thanks for sharing your experience. I have to look further into it so that I can add some information to this hub. And I bet they do make great fish bait! Ugh, but I can't get that animal thing out of my mind. YUCK! Poor lil creatures. Thanks Sharkye for stopping by.

        Sharyn

      • Natashalh profile image

        Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

        Ugh - I hate grubs! I had a yard for about a year and a half after college and grubs kept getting in my garden and ruining it! They were so huge, too. They were kind of frightening really! I wish I'd had this hub to guide me back then. One day I'll have a yard again and then this will come in useful.

      • pinto2011 profile image

        Subhas 5 years ago from New Delhi, India

        This is surely going to help me out as I am really perturbed because of these. Thanks for writing all these suggestions.

      • faythef profile image

        Faythe Payne 5 years ago from USA

        Not only do they cause a lot of damage . They are all about ugly..thank you for this helpful article

      • Victoria Lynn profile image

        Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

        Gosh, they cause a lot of damage! Good to know what to do! Great hub!

      • Sharkye11 profile image

        Jayme Kinsey 5 years ago from Oklahoma

        Wow. Interesting hub. Let me add that grubs can also be a danger to pets. When we ran a farm, we had to really be careful about animals that would sleep or lie on the ground. Grubs will burrow into animals! You will notice an itchy place on your pet, and a deep wound that looks like a puncture. If you watch closely, you will see the grub poke out a little bit for air. We had this happen to our free-range rabbits and chickens as well as pets such as dogs and cats before we noticed what was going on and treated it. Grubs can be nasty business. But they do make great bait for fishing!

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi CC ~ I said the same thing to myself. No way did these little worms do all that damage overnight. I honestly did not know what to think at first, especially since the yard is fenced in. I learned quick though. Thanks so much for stopping by.

        Sharyn

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi Turtlewoman! It certainly is an annoying problem. Oh gosh, I'm afraid to do the research to see if people really eat grubs. Yuck! Thank you so much for stopping by.

        Sharyn

      • cclitgirl profile image

        Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

        LOL...I was like 'those little worms cause all that damage?' LOL, then I kept reading. That's a cute little raccoon picture ya got there. Hehehe.

      • Turtlewoman profile image

        Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

        Oh yikes, that is an annoying problem! This is a very useful hub!

        It's funny, I just saw an episode on Travel where this guy was eating bugs that look just like that first picture. It was in the Philippines and the locals eat them for protein. *shudder*

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi Mo ~ Oh, be glad this is not a big problem where you live. It's kind of like they sneak up on you and before you know it, your lawn looks like my photos :( Thank you so much for stopping by.

        Sharyn

      • missolive profile image

        Marisa Hammond Olivares 5 years ago from Texas

        Oh my goodness, this would totally freak me out! I can't get over those pictures Sharon. This must not be a big problem in our region but if it does become one I'm looking you up for more info. Very interesting, great comment thread too.

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi Glimmer ~ well I'm not sure what to say about your daughter, ha. Thanks for the comment about the milky spore. I may try using that in the spring. I appreciate you stopping by.

        Sharyn

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Golfgal ~ as I said, YUCK, ha. Nice to know she had that "Mona Lisa" smile :)

      • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

        Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

        Really useful hub Sharyn! Voted up too. Your grass looks a little like mine. For some reason my daughter loves to look at the grubs. I love to get rid of them and we really love the milky spore. It seems to work well.

      • Golfgal profile image

        Golfgal 5 years ago from McKinney, Texas

        Just yesterday.....she found a grub, lapped it into her mouth, rolled it around on her tongue until she got it just right between her teeth....and yes, with a mona lisa smile she bite down and squished that grub right between her teeth with great delight. I just had to LOL

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi Golfgal ~ ooooh, yuck! Just sayin'

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Kelly ~ Yup, grubs are really gross. Before you do any kind of treatment, follow the instructions to check a square foot of grass in several places. It does NOT sound like they are bad (if at all in the lawn) to treat. Good luck. And thanks for your "open" comments, ha.

        Sharyn

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi Janis ~ Ugh, yes, it can be a lot of work. Especially when critters wreak havoc on it! I appreciate you stopping by to read and comment. Thank you so much!

        Sharyn

      • Golfgal profile image

        Golfgal 5 years ago from McKinney, Texas

        I have a puggle, when I dig a hole to plant something she is right there looking for a tasty snack aka grub, so add dogs to the list of grub eating predators LOL.

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi Golfgal ~ No, I am not sure what tore up the yard but it must have been either skunks or raccoons. Our fences are too high for deer to jump in (I think). Thanks for the tips about the beetle traps. Sure sounds like it would help. I am also thinking we might have moles too. Because - there have been times when the dog is digging in the yard. Ugh, what a pain. Thanks so much for your feedback. May you remain grub free, ha :) Take care,

        Sharyn

      • RealHousewife profile image

        Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

        Ah ha! Okie dokey then, mama has an issue. I bet you anything that is shy I DO have a few brown spots that won't grow grass! I do have a lovely lawn except a few spots! I've found those grub in my garden! So disgusting Sharon! Oh I could blow chow thinking about those ugly things.

        Thanks so much! I have even had a lean service and they never said anything about this...I do have tons of birds, feeders and baths. Hmmmm...I think Dvae is gonna have to take a closer look for me:)

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi Carol ~ Probably pretty difficult to find any grubs in Arizona :) It was creepy when I woke up one morning and saw the yard like that. I was like WTH??? I appreciate you stopping by and sharing too.

        Sharyn

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi Stephanie ~ Nope, you are definitely not the only one that finds grubs annoying. I was/am annoyed for sure. But I'm hoping they are gone. Best wishes for your safety throughout the hurricane.

        Sharyn

      • Sharyn's Slant profile image
        Author

        Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

        Hi Susan ~ I never really put it together, that skunks like grubs and that may be what brings them around. So glad it seems like you got rid of the problem. I do think I will also put a "preventative" treatment on in the spring too. I don't want to go through this mess again if I don't have to. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us.

        Sharyn

      • Janis Goad profile image

        Janis Goad 5 years ago

        Interesting hub. I never knew a lawn took so much work. I am gradually replanting grass areas with native plants, herbaceous perennials and vegetable beds, but I need to keep some lawn for an open playing area. Encouraging birds is a great idea--let them eat the grubs.

      • Golfgal profile image

        Golfgal 5 years ago from McKinney, Texas

        Hey Sharyn, Did you ever find out what critter it was that feasted in your backyard? When living in Maryland we had tons of grubs,aftermoving to Texas we also have tons of grubs. Beetles are everywhere I am afraid. I would also add that ja[anese Beetle traps work great to collect the adult beetlesbefore mating and laying eggs occur. The traps have mating hormones that are irrestible to thelittle beasts. Organic preventativefor sure. Some people get yard moles infestations and that is why.....great source of protein for moles. Thanks for sharing your yard therapy with us.

      • carol7777 profile image

        carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

        I never heard of these. We only have rocks and stuff here in Arizona. Pretty creepy what happened to your yard. Thanks for showing and sharing...Voting up and this needs to be shared.

      • StephanieBCrosby profile image

        Stephanie Bradberry 5 years ago from New Jersey

        I was just checking around my yard today--securing things for the coming backlash of hurricane Sandy. And I kept seeing all these beetles. I think they were Japanese beetles because we used to get them a lot during the summer. This summer seemed pretty bad for grubs in my area. Glad I am not the only one finding these critters annoying.

      • Just Ask Susan profile image

        Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        We had lawn grubs when we first moved into this house. Before we got the dogs we had all kinds of critters that would walk around and feast on the grubs. Raccoon's, a skunk and a groundhog. I haven't seen the groundhog in quite a few years or smelt the skunk since he sprayed Maggie but I know the Raccoon's are still around. We treated our lawn with a product we got at home depot and it did the trick. We did have to reapply it the following year but haven't had or seen any grubs for a few years now.

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