The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Lawn Grubs: Identification, Control, and Prevention

Lawn grubs, also known as white grubs, are the larvae of various species of beetles, including Japanese beetles, May or June beetles, and chafers. They are a common pest that can cause significant damage to lawns and gardens by feeding on the roots of grass and other plants. If left untreated, grub infestations can lead to yellowing or browning of the grass, thinning of the turf, and even complete lawn death. In this article, we will discuss the identification, prevention, and control of lawn grubs.

Appearance and Life History

The life cycle of white grubs (Chafer Grubs) begins in the late summer or early fall when adult beetles lay eggs in the soil. The eggs hatch into small, C-shaped larvae that begin feeding on grass roots. As the grubs grow and mature, they continue to feed on roots until they pupate in late spring or early summer. Adult beetles then emerge from the pupae and begin the cycle anew.

White Grubs: image

White grubs – Japanese beetle (left) and European
chafer (right). Credit: D. Cappaert,

Signs of white grub damage include irregular brown patches of grass that can be lifted easily from the soil due to the absence of roots. In severe infestations, the grass may appear yellow or brown and feel spongy when walked on. If left untreated, white grubs can kill large areas of turfgrass and attract other pests such as moles and skunks that feed on the grubs.

Early detection of white grubs is crucial for effective control. In the next chapter, we will discuss how to identify these pests and when to take action to prevent damage.

The life cycle of white grubs: image

Identification of Lawn Grubs

The first step in preventing and controlling lawn grubs is to identify their presence. The most obvious sign of a grub infestation is brown patches of dead or dying grass that appear in the late summer or early fall. Other signs include the presence of adult beetles, which can often be seen flying around the lawn during the summer months, and the presence of birds, which may be feeding on the grubs.

To confirm the presence of lawn grubs, you can dig up a section of the affected turf and examine the soil and roots. Grubs are typically C-shaped and have a brownish-white body with a darker head and six legs. They vary in size depending on the species and the stage of development but are typically around one inch in length.

Prevention of Lawn Grubs

The best way to prevent lawn grubs is to maintain a healthy lawn. This includes regular watering, fertilization, and mowing at the appropriate height. A healthy lawn will be more resistant to grub infestations and better able to recover from any damage caused.

Another important prevention method is to reduce the attractiveness of the lawn to adult beetles. This can be achieved by removing any thatch buildup, which can provide a breeding ground for beetles, and by avoiding overwatering, which can create moist conditions that are ideal for egg-laying. Additionally, removing any debris or fallen fruit from fruit trees can help to reduce the number of beetles in the area.

Control of Lawn Grubs

There are several methods of controlling white grubs, including cultural practices, biological control, and chemical control. One method is to use biological control agents, such as nematodes or bacteria, which can be applied to the lawn and will infect and kill the grubs. Another option is to use chemical insecticides, which can be applied to the lawn in either granular or liquid form.

When choosing an insecticide, it’s important to consider the active ingredients, as some may be more effective against certain species of grubs than others. It’s also important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, including application rates, timing, and safety precautions.


Cultural practices involve modifying lawn care practices to create an environment that is less conducive to white grub infestations. These practices include reducing irrigation frequency and duration, mowing at the proper height, and overseeding with grass varieties that are more resistant to white grubs. Cultural practices alone are usually not enough to control an existing infestation, but they can help prevent future infestations.


Biological control involves introducing natural predators or parasites that feed on white grubs. For example, nematodes are microscopic organisms that infect and kill white grubs without harming other organisms. These organisms can be applied to lawns in the form of a spray or granular formulation.


Chemical control involves using insecticides to kill white grubs. Insecticides can be applied as preventative treatments or as curative treatments after an infestation has been detected. Insecticides can be applied as liquid formulations, granular formulations, or as soil injections. It is important to follow label instructions carefully when using insecticides, as they can be toxic to beneficial organisms and can contaminate water sources if not used properly.

It is recommended to use a combination of cultural, biological, and chemical control methods to effectively manage white grubs. However, it is important to note that prevention is the best approach to controlling white grubs. Proper lawn care practices, such as reducing irrigation frequency and duration, mowing at the proper height, and overseeding with resistant grass varieties, can help prevent white grub infestations in the first place.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

How long do lawn grubs stay in the soil?

Lawn grubs typically stay in the soil for one year before emerging as adult beetles. During this time, they will go through several stages of development, each lasting several weeks.

What is the best time to apply grub control products to the lawn?

The best time to apply grub control products to the lawn is in the late spring or early summer, before the grubs have had a chance to cause significant damage. This is typically when adult beetles are laying their eggs in the soil.

Can lawn grubs be controlled without the use of chemicals?

Yes, there are several non-chemical methods for controlling lawn grubs, including the use of biological control agents, such as nematodes or bacteria, and the use of cultural practices, such as maintaining a healthy lawn and reducing the attractiveness of the lawn to adult beetles.

How can I tell if my lawn has a grub infestation?

The most obvious sign of a grub


White grubs can cause serious damage to lawns and gardens if left untreated. Understanding the life cycle and behavior of white grubs, as well as the available methods of control, can help homeowners effectively manage these pests.

Cultural practices, biological control, and chemical control methods can all be effective, but prevention is always the best approach. Homeowners should focus on maintaining a healthy lawn through proper care practices to prevent infestations in the first place.

If an infestation is suspected, prompt action can help prevent further damage and restore the health of the lawn. With the right combination of control methods, homeowners can keep their lawns healthy and beautiful all season long.


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