3 Signs that Your Apartment Landscape Has a Grub Worm Infestation


Just as June signifies the beginning of summer, it also marks the arrival of June bugs – those beetles that buzz around and seemingly crash into everything and often leave a crunchy mess. But those beetles that don’t meet such an unfortunate fate will reproduce, potentially creating greater landscape issues than a few dozen dead bugs on the sidewalk.

June bugs lay eggs that ultimately become the often-feared white grub worm, which has been known to wreck even the most finely manicured lawns and flower beds. The grub lives and matures about four inches deep in well-nourished lawns for about a year before emerging from the ground as a June bug in May or June.

While a sparse population of grubs can actually benefit a lawn by providing necessary aeration for oxygen and water, they can damage turf grass and roots of other plant life if populations aren’t controlled. They tend to do most of their damage in July and August.

White grubs like to attack warm season grasses like Bermuda, zoysia, St. Augustine and buffalo grass during the summer and early fall. Some cool season grasses like fescues, ryes and blue grasses can also fall victim to grubs.

Here are three indications that grub worms are present and could damage or have already taken a toll on the landscape:

1. Increased Presence of Digging, Burrowing Creatures

Raised, cracked portions of the landscape are an indication that moles or other borrowing creatures are on the hunt for grub worms. In Texas, areas of the landscape that appear to have been dug up are a sign that another grub worm connoisseur – the Armadillo – is on the prowl. Gophers also like grub worms.

2. Weeds are an early sign that grub worms are too plentiful

When grubs feed on the root systems of plants and grass, lawns and beds become weaker. That opens the possibility that weeds can move in and start germinating, creating an unattractive area of the landscape.

3. Dying or Damaged Grass

An obvious patch of dying grass or plant life is a sign that grubs have taken charge of a landscape. Also, grass will feel spongy and will lift up with a good pull like a piece of carpet or rug, sometimes by the handful.

How to Take a Grub Worm Census

Once you notice one or more of these symptoms, or you just want to spot-check the lawn, you can find out rather quickly if you indeed have a grub worm infestation. The best way to do that is take a census by examining several soil selections at about three to four inches across and four inches deep. Finding more than five white grubs per square foot may mean that it’s time to use one of the many commercially available treatments, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office.

grub-worm-smNext, you need to determine whether they are grub worms or other less harmful worms. Grub worms typically have a plump, white body with a red or orange head and gray tail. They are usually curled and parts of their body may appear to be translucent at times.

Also, be on the lookout for Army and Cut worms. Army worms are skinnier and straighter, darker in color and may have yellow striping. Cut worms curl up like grubs but are brown or green and may possess similar striping to Army worms. These can also cause problems.

A Few Grub Worms Aren’t a Bad Thing

It’s normal for grub worms to inhabit landscapes, especially those in the southern U.S., so don’t panic. This time of year, it’s easy to blame grub worms for some types of damage, although in many parts they are not into full swing. A good rule of thumb is to begin treatment in July or August.

Remember, a few grub worms in the lawn aren’t a bad thing. Just don’t let them get out of control.


 (Image Credits: Grub worm via Shutterstock; Grub worm infested lawn is uncredited)



President, Earthworks

author photo two

Chris Lee is President of Dallas, Texas-based Earthworks, which specializes in multifamily housing landscaping. He is a contributing author to Landscape Management magazine, licensed irrigation specialist and a Toro Intellisense certified technician. Chris studied business at the University of Arkansas from 1990-94 and horticulture and landscape design at Tarrant County College from 1999-01. He has been employed at Earthworks since 1998.

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