Skunks and Japanese Beetles

Backyard Wisdom

 Mystery lawn holes revealed as skunk damage

Mystery lawn holes revealed as skunk damage

by ISA Master Arborist, Gilbert Smith

Have you noticed holes being dug in your lawn this fall? The most likely culprit is skunks. The Skunks are not eating your grass, but they are mining your turf roots for tasty grubs. The grubs are eating your healthy grass roots so we should be thanking the skunks.  In fact, the grubs are actually the larval stage of June Beetles and another beetle grub new to our neighborhood, the horrid Japanese Beetle. So, again, thank you skunks!  When the Japanese Beetle emerges from the grub stage in the summer it is the enemy of Rose gardens, Raspberries, Hydrangeas and Lindens to name just a few. I hate them, but the skunks think they are delicious.

 Photos by Gilbert Smith

Photos by Gilbert Smith

My clients have asked if I can get rid of this unholy duo with some insecticide. The answer is.... No!  There are strong insecticides labeled for grubs. Even if you kill all of the lawn grubs in your yard and make your roses toxic to Japanese Beetles, they can still fly in from your neighborhood. You will be putting poison into the soil around your home which may leach into the ground water and make your lovely green lawn unsafe for robins and worms, butterflies, honeybees, pets and small children.
 
What you may not realize that the repercussion is that whenever you wipe out an insect pest with a non-organic treatment you force that pest to become resistant and you kill the good insects at the same time. The unexpected result is that often there is a consequent population explosion of the bad bug that is higher and more damaging than before you sprayed.

So what can we do? I suggest that you relax a bit, take a deep breath, and don’t worry so much about that perfect green lawn. The holes will fill in and green up in no time.  If you want to cut down on the population of Japanese Beetles I suggest using a naturally occurringbacteria that colonizes your soil and eats Japanese Beetle Grubs called Milky Spore. It is available at The Chalet Nursery and Garden Center. If you don’t like the idea of spreading bacteria, your Arborsmiths would love to apply it for you in the spring. We like doing it because we can apply it right onto your flower and vegetable gardens and because it is completely harmless to humans, you can play or eat from them that same day. It is not as dramatic as toxic sprays but it is so much safer and actually more effective in grub control in the long run. 

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