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Five Dirty Secrets that Lawn Grubs Won’t Tell

By Kathy Connolly

It’s true: Lawn grubs have secrets. Not that they ever shared them directly with me, but there are lots of people who have spent lots of time studying this nemesis of grassy greens. From the work of these scientists and lawn ecologists, most of us have a few things to learn.


  1. In Connecticut, we have as many as eight different species of lawn grubs. All grubs are all beetle larvae and they each have their own modus operandi. When looking to discourage these miniature packing worm look-alikes, we need to use slightly different approaches for each one.
  2. Grubs damage lawns primarily by chewing the roots.
  3. Grubs are gourmet fare for moles, whose tunneling ability is the envy of civil engineers. It is actually the vegetarian voles, comparatively poor tunnel-makers who take advantage of moles’ tunnels, that eat tasty grass roots. Thus, the presence of grubs invites further lawn damage.
  4. Some lawn care practices actually create luxury accommodations for grubs. Chief among these is overwatering in the months of June and July, when adult female beetles lay their eggs.
  5. Grubs have a better chance of survival in high pH soil. When we raise soil pH to encourage lawn grasses, we make things comfy for grubs.

Here are five ways to discourage grubs:

  1. Mow lawns higher in June and July, keeping them at about 3” – 4”. This promotes thick roots and aids in reducing the lawn’s water needs. The less water you apply, the less friendly your lawn to egg-laying adult females.
  2. To help with water reduction, choose lawn grass seed that will tolerate droughts. In this region, fescues are well known for this quality. Some people are beginning to use Buffalo Grass for low-mow lawns. It is extremely drought tolerant.
  3. Choose lawn grass seed that can tolerate a lower pH. In this region, fescues are again a good choice.
  4. If you’re serious about non-chemical methods of ridding your lawn of grubs, consider using nematodes. These microscopic critters parasitize grubs. See:
  5. Milky spore products are effective in the warmer parts of southern New England, but only against Japanese beetles. Remember, there are as many as eight types of grubs.

Finally, don’t forget that grub resistance is greater when a lawn grasses can grow deep roots in healthy soil. Grubs do most of their feeding in the top three inches of the soil.

Copyright ©2014 Kathleen Groll Connolly, Speaking of Landscapes, LLC