Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Submitted on November 26, 2015

Winter is starting to show its beginnings in some parts of Canada. In other parts, November has been unseasonably mild. Mild weather means your lawn may still be very green and actively growing. Sometimes this brings uninvited dinner guests into your yard! Remember, if your lawn is actively growing, believe it or not you may still need to fire up that mower to keep the height of your grass blades at a slightly shorter than normal height (5cm) heading into the winter. Also try to clear out as much debris (leaves, sticks, etc) as possible. Mild temperatures and actively growing grass can sometimes mean sub-surface pests like white grubs or leatherjackets begin to feed on the roots of your lawn. Normally they become active in the early fall or early spring; but due to unseasonably warm conditions, we are getting reports from many customers that animals like skunks, racoon, squirrels and birds have been feeding on something beneath their lawn. Usually this means they have found some succulent larvae treats to feed on; which again typically means white grubs or leather jackets. If this is happening on your lawn, don’t panic! As soon as the temperature cools down to seasonal levels, the soil where these critters are feeding on your lawn’s roots will also cool down dramatically; stopping these turf damaging insects in their tracks. As soon as that happens, they will hibernate for the cold winter months when the grass also shuts down as a plant system. When this happens, the hungry skunks, raccoon, birds and squirrels will stop digging up your lawn because the larvae have borrowed down to far to cocoon for the winter. Depending on how cold it gets, many of the hibernating larvae will not survive the winter months; reducing the quantity of sub-surface insects to a level that no longer threatens the health of the turf and won’t attract the previously uninvited dinner guests (skunks etc). Very often homeowners will call their local Weed Man in a panic asking them to treat for these pesky insects. In many parts of the country, there are no registered insect control products for these insects. In these areas, nematodes (a natural predator to grubs & leather-jackets) and/or root stimulants can be introduced as a solution. In any case, treatment of any kind at this late stage of the year would be a mistake. If skunks, etc . are digging up your lawn, at this time of year you are better to simply rake up or remove dead grass and plan to oversees the bare areas now or in the spring. The damage caused by these animals can be extensive particularly with skunks or raccoons who can dig so vicariously it looks like your lawn has been rototilled. Again, the best thing to do is manually remove as much damaged turf as possible. If the larvae are still visible when you rake, try to manually remove as many larvae as you can; as this will reduce the recurrence of the issue when they come out of hibernation and resume feeding next spring. If you are experiencing any of these issues, please contact your local Weed Man to give you specific recommendations.

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