Saturday, August 6, 2016

Grubs (Japanese Beetles!) and African Dogtooth/DogTuff Grass: A Partial Story

A few weeks ago, I noticed grub activity in our lawn. My mother taught me to recognize it a few years ago like this: 1) see brown spots 2) kick the grass on the brown spots 3) if grass breaks off at the roots, you have grubs. This is only the second time in 6 summers that I've seen grub activity in the yard. The first time, the lawn was turning brown and we were watering and watering and watering and nothing made a difference. Colorado locals aren't used to spotting grub activity. Some Colorado garden stores don't carry lawn care products specifically for grubs. The first time it took my mother, visiting from Rhode Island, to diagnose the problem.

The second time (this time) when I saw what looked like grub activity, I dug up a bit of lawn to be sure. Yes. Grubs.

Then, I pleasantly noted that the grub were eating our regular grass, but NOT our dogtooth grass, see?

Since planting the dogtooth grass, we've been slightly disappointed by the amount of regular grass that somehow managed to survive. We'd like the regular grass to go away, because it requires that we continue to mow. And the regular grass takes more water and more treatments to look good. Fritz and I treated the grubs, but thought, well, it's not the worst thing. Maybe the dogtooth will take over, and we'd much prefer that.

The dogtooth grass is thick like a sponge and loves to launch itself into new areas. Here, it's aggressively growing over my stepping stones:

But I digress.

Because the point is, a few days later, I was over at a neighbor's house and her son was showing me the "funny bugs" on their grape leaves. I saw a bug that I know from growing up in New England – and a bug I dislike: the Japanese beetle. Then it clicked. That grub activity wasn't just grub activity, it was JAPANESE BEETLES. Meaning the brown spots on lawns are just the beginning. The adult beetles will actually create more damage than the larvae.

I didn't take a photo, but you can google it. Most people from the Western US have never seen a Japanese Beetle before and aren't aware of how damaging they can be.

Japanese Beetles eat EVERYTHING! Linden trees, grape leaves, maple trees, strawberry leaves, tomato leaves, etc. They kill the grass as grubs, but then they defoliate plants and trees as adult beetles. The beetles have no natural predators in North America, so the best way to get them is when they are still grubs.

Around here, we are trying to use LESS insecticide, not more, so I'll be ordering some milky spores for our lawn today. The goal is to take them out while they are still grubs, before they become beetles. I hope my neighbors will do the same, because I'd be so sad to see our entire (fledgling) neighborhood landscaping gobbled up by Japanese Beetles.

Planting the dogtooth grass plugs
Why we planted the grass (a dialog)
The African dogtooth grass experiment begins in May
The African dogtooth grass at 4 months in August
Where the bulbs get eaten by the rabbits
Fifteen months after planting
Two years in, when the Japanese Beetle Grubs arrive (hint, you're reading it!)


Anonymous said...

Have you heard of treating them with neem oil?

Ann Wyse said...

I've heard of that! We might have to do it in the future - I'm hoping that if we keep on top of the grubs, we won't get to the point of waging war with the beetles. Probably wishful thinking. ;-)