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Organic Grubworm Control

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Question:

Grubworms have taken over my lawn but I have no extra money to purchase Milky Spore. I am also all organic for 15 years now. How is it made? It sounds like a bacteria colony, is it? Is is made from milk? How long would it take to produce some should one get the formula?

Why is it the best, perhaps only, natural treatment for grubworms? I'm familiar with the "life cycle" of the Japanese Beetle from which it comes, but since I live on a corner under a bright street light, it draws them to all our homes. Others may be able and not want to be organic but I was almost killed SEVERAL times, accidentally, from pesticides, twice in my yard, and once in a garage sale accident.

Perhaps you can understand why it is especially important to stay organic? I firmly believe that when the yard is in balance, such pests can't get such a grip. However, as you remind us, this last dry spell/heat wave, water restriction really did damage to that balance. My beds are all Zeriscaped, but the lawn remains vulnerable. I am considering expanding into the lawn around the house/shrubs, beneath the trees, with a natural zeriscaped walking path and free organic mulch from the city. One home has the entire lawn area in grasses/ plantings, but it seems out of control.

I have plenty of Lirope Grass/Asian Jasmine to do the same, but I don't like it. I love a more natural, not messy, look and environment. Can you help?

Also, would the grubs be attracted by any particular plant other than grass and light? Is there any research on it?

Hardiness Zone: 8a

Lynda from TX

Answer

Lynda,

You're covering two different topics here, so let's take them one at a time.

Mily Spore

Regarding milky spore, you asked:

  1. How is it made? It sounds like a bacteria colony, is it? Milky disease spores consist of 2 types of bacteria (Bacillus popilliae and B.lentimorbus) that are combined as a microbial insecticide product called milky disease or mild spore disease. Beetle grubs eat spores that have been sprayed on lawns while feeding on grass roots. The bacteria kill grubs of Japanese beetles and several related beetles but are harmless to other organisms.

  2. Is it made from milk? The "milk" in milky spore actually comes from the fact that the bodies of the grubs infected with the bacteria become filled with an opaque, milky white liquid that remains in the soil after the grubs die.

  3. How long would it take to produce some should one get the formula? This formula is produced commercially. Once the grubs are infected, they continue to inoculate the soil as they travel until they die. The spores are usually carried over from year to year by new generations of beetles. Northern zones may need repeated applications, but for southern gardens, usually only one application is necessary. Once established, milky spore can help control grub populations for a decade or more.

  4. Why is it the best, perhaps only, natural treatment for grubworms? There are many ways to naturally control Japanese beetle populations. Among natural controls, Milky disease spores are just one method of biological control and not necessarily any better or any worse than other "natural" methods. The best way to keep things naturally in balance is to use a combination of cultural and biological methods. One cultural technique for controlling beetles is to hand pick them as adults or shake them onto drop cloths and then to dispose of them in a pail of soapy water. This is best done early in the morning when the beetles are least active. Two other biological means of control include attracting native species of parasitic wasps and flies or releasing parasitic nematodes into the soil.

  5. Also, would the grubs be attracted by any particular plant other than grass and light? Larvae will feed on whatever is available. They tend to prefer the roots of lawn grasses, but they will also feed on the roots of other garden plants.

  6. Is there any research on it? Because this beetle is so common and also damages some agricultural crops commercially, scientists continue to research their habits and life cycles in order to find better ways to control their populations. Several studies have suggested that the adult beetles are most strongly attracted to light-colored flowers and those with stronger fragrances. Certain cultivars also seem to show more resistance to attacks. Search for Japanese beetles on http://scholar.google.com for current research studies. Here is an interesting link discussing some research being done by the University of Kentucky: http://cipm.ncsu.edu/ent/Southern_Region/99Programs/kentucky.html

Walking Path

Regarding a walking path - You said: I am considering expanding into the lawn around the house/shrubs, beneath the trees, with a natural zeriscaped walking path and free organic mulch from the city. One home has the entire lawn area in grasses/ plantings, but it seems out of control.

I have plenty of Lirope Grass/Asian Jasmine to do the same, but I don't like it. I love a more natural, not messy, look and environment. Can you help?

I think Xeriscape landscaping is a wonderful idea for your garden-especially in Texas, where demands on fresh water have become a critical issue. If you're looking for low-growing ground covers and plantings that will give a more tidy, yet natural looking path, you might consider vinca, English ivy or little bunny dwarf grass. Texas A & M has a wonderful site on Xeriscape landscaping that lists of all types of plants, including ground covers, grasses and perennials and what part of Texas they are best adapted to.
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/xeriscape/xeriscape.html

Pictures of native Texas wildflowers can be found here:
http://hotx.com/wildflowers/

You can also find ideas for drought resistant plants by zone here:
http://classygroundcovers.com/

Hope this information helps!

Ellen

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

Recent Answers

Here are the recent answer to this question.

By Lynda (Guest Post)02/07/2007

Thanks so much, Ellen! I haven't the income to do anymore than I'm doing, and since Milky Spore and beneficial wasps are expensive, I'll have to cripple along applying used coffee grounds that come freely, applying them topically now to allow them to decompose? I believe your article on them said they
are nitrogen fixers? That I should just allow them to be on top of the soil until they break down naturally?
I do this with leaves, lots of thin twigs, adding only
the coffee grounds when available. However, I am
concerned about adding them in the winter to deciduous plants/trees. Is this a problem since it takes a while to decompose the grounds, perhaps readying them for the feedings in the Spring when leaves bud? I can't store the grounds easily, and I have access to an abundance, but hate to add them to the compost, thinking they might repel some of the beneficial organisms/insects there, is this your
understanding, too?

I took a real chance and ground up some old vitamins, minerals, and misc. supplements that had expired and added them to the compost in liquid form with water, per Jerry Baker's suggestion. It smells too much like vitamins now, but I pray his
experience is correct. Also, I added some grass that had molded in the bag prior, so have I made any serious mistakes that you know of?

GREAT NEWS: Having some serious cracking in my brick and house, I began to analyze the placement and likely root patterning of my foundation plants and nearby trees. Since the area that cracked the most seems to be farthest from the nearby trees, I decided to encourage small tree(Youpon) root spread into that area last Fall where it seems too low and some
water puddles, all with used coffee grounds. To my amazement, for the first time in over 30 years, this
area has begun to rise, the cracking is greatly dimished, and the puddling is minimal. I'm careful to allow only a few branches from the small trees to grow in the direction of this low area of the house.

It seems the root system is reaching underground towards that corner for the used coffee grounds I applied more than usual and evenly there, purposefully NOT applying around the
normal dripline of the tree just this year. It sounds
incredible, but there is no other explination that I can
think of, no other changes, and the soil level is gradually getting to the same level as the rest of the
lawn/beds/walks.

Thank you for the links. I have a wonderful large spread of ground cover of varigated Vinca Major which is admired by neighbors, and a host of native plants, leaving little room for anything else. Now my main challenge is to somehow nurse the St. Augustine lawn grass back to health, after covering it with used grounds and an inch of fallen leaves for the winter . There is a corner city street lamp that seems to attract them during their season, so I don't think I'd have a prayer of trying to hand pick them out. EVERY time I have any occasion to dig out a weed, say, I find a grub and destroy it.

My NEXT challenge will be to tastefully and artistically
add some sort of horizontal and vertical wood posts,
trim, beams to the interior ceiling, walls in an attempt to create a covering of the cracks thoughout the interior allowing for the minimal/maximum openings/closings of the cracks, should that problem return and my theory/efforts be in vain,
rather than to fantacize about getting the foundation
and planting corrected at great expense.

Since I can't afford postage stamps for my bills, I will have to continue to be creative and innovative in all areas of this sort with whatever comes my way.

I'm about to prune my older rose bush and hope I don't kill it accidentally. I tossed all banana peelings
around it, and mulched the base this winter, so perhaps it will appreciate that with a shower of blooms?

Thank you again, and God bless you. : )

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