Lawn (White) Grubs In Gardens and Lawns

- The larval stage of certain beetles -

Summary: Lawn grubs, or white grubs, are the larval stage of scarab beetles. These larvae feed on the roots of plants often causing significant damage. Grub control is sometimes necessary in lawns, gardens and golf courses.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Identification of lawn/white grubs

White grubs (right) are the larval stage of certain beetles, called scarabs (family: Scarabidae). Japanese beetles and June beetles [photo of June beetles] are familiar examples of scarab beetles. These larvae live in the soil where they feed on organic matter and plant roots. Damage is done when larvae eat the roots of plants and grasses leaving them unable to obtain water. Adult beetles, like Japanese beetle, can also damage the leaves of host plants.

White grubs are easy to identify. They are fairly large, creme-colored larvae with 3 distinct pairs of legs and an amber-colored head. The tail end of the larva is often packed with soil particles, visible as a dark mass, and the body is often bend into a "C" shape (see photo, right).

common names & misnomers: whitegrubs

picture of lawn/white grub larva

White/lawn grub larva photo by Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Notice legs, amber-colored head and soil packed into tail end of this larva.

Turf damage caused by grubs

Because white grubs feed on roots, damage is usually first noticed during dry periods when injured plants cannot get the water they need. Turf often dies in large, irregular-shaped patches. Birds and other predators may damage turf as well in order to prey on white grub larvae in the soil.

Stop grub damage

Managers of golf courses and similar commercial turf areas generally resort to soil-applied insecticides to control infestations of grubs. Imidacloprid (Merit Insecticide, Bayer Advanced; see What is Merit Insecticide?) is one of the more effective insecticides for this application. A relatively new product, Allectus, combines imidacloprid with another insecticide, bifenthrin.

For most homeowners, however, it is better to focus on improving turf health through proper watering and fertilization, and use of the natural microbial insecticides Milky Spore and/or entomopathogenic nematodes. Milky Spore (also called Milky Disease) is a natural soil bacterium that infects and kills grubs. It is commonly used for Japanese beetle control but also works for other turf-damaging lawn grub species. Milky Spore for lawn grub control is available here (, our affiliate).

Entomopathogenic nematodes are also a natural component of most soils. These tiny hunters attack white grubs and kill the larvae, see Using Nemtodes For Grub Control.

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