22October 12, 2011

During the past two weeks, many people have seen sections of their lawn develop many holes in the lawn. The holes are a couple of inches deep and about two to three inches wide. A closer look shows that the grass has been pulled back. More and more of these holes appear each night. The culprit is a skunk and they are telling you something that you really need to know about your lawn.

As fall heads towards winter, skunks need to eat a lot of food to help to carry them through the winter. One of their favorite foods is the grub that feed on the roots of many lawns. The grubs come from the eggs laid by the Japanese beetles. The beetle lays the eggs in the lawn during July and August. In early September, the eggs hatch out and the grubs begin to feed on the roots of the lawn. By the first of October, the grubs have gotten big. During the night, the skunks travel the neighborhoods looking for food. Lawns are a good place to look for food. As the skunk walks along the lawn, it will sniff the grass. If it smells a grub, the skunk will use its sharp claws to pull back the grass and then eat the exposed grub. This will continue until the skunk cannot find any more grubs. This whole process will repeat itself night after night until the skunk finds a better source of food.

In reality, the skunk is doing you a favor if you see damage to your lawn. The skunk is letting you know that there are grubs in your lawn. If the skunk did not dig up the lawn and you did not apply a grub control to your lawn then come the spring, you would have large areas of dead grass from the grubs eating all of the roots of your lawn.

Fall is the best time of the year to control grubs. The grubs will over winter and begin to feed on the lawn almost as soon as the ground thaws out. By the time spring really gets rolling, the grubs have gotten so big that there are few if any control methods that are effective at killing the grubs.

If you have grubs in your lawn, there are many control methods you can use at this time of the year. There are granular insecticides that you can apply to your lawn with a lawn spreader. The granules are watered into the soil and the grubs are killed almost over night. The commonly advertised season long grub control is not the one that you want to use at this time of the year. That grub control takes about 30 days to work. At this point in the season, you don’t have the 30 days to wait. By the time 30 days has come, the lawn could be frozen or the skunks could have done their damage.

There are also several organic control methods you can use to control grubs in your lawn. One method is a bacterium called Milky Spore. This is a powder that contains spores that is applied to the grass and then watered into the soil. As the grubs eat, they ingest the spores and the bacterium begins to grow in the grub. The bacterium soon kills the grub and the dead grub releases more spores as it decays in the soil. The spores will remain in the soil for 10 or more years. The spores become active as soon as the grubs appear each year giving you control of the grubs even before you know there are grubs in your lawn.

Another organic approach is the use of nematodes. Nematodes are microscopic “worms” that feed on the grubs. The nematodes are applied with either a watering can or you can use a hose end sprayer similar to the type you use to apply insecticides to the garden. The nematodes work best in a warm and moist soil. The time is right to use this product now. Once the soil gets cool or if the soil dries out, the nematodes are not as effective.

If the skunks have been visiting your lawn, they are trying to tell you that it is time to control the grubs in your lawn.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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