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Why you need to sell grub control as insurance for lawns

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Experts stress a preventive treatment is the best way to sell grub control to clients. (Photo: ETCH Outdoor Living)
Experts stress a preventive treatment is the best way to sell grub control to clients. (Photo: ETCH Outdoor Living)
Experts stress a preventive treatment is the best way to sell grub control to clients. (Photo: ETCH Outdoor Living)
Experts stress a preventive treatment is the best way to sell grub control to clients. (Photo: ETCH Outdoor Living)

The most effective way to control grubs is to address them in the spring or early summer before they hatch and destroy a lawn. This is the best argument lawn care professionals can make when selling grub control as part of a comprehensive residential or commercial turf program.

“Grub control is life insurance for your lawn,” says Samuel Rankin, president of ETCH Outdoor Living in Ankeny, Iowa. The company’s service portfolio includes 30 percent maintenance (including irrigation and lawn care), 55 percent design/build and 15 percent snow and ice management. “We hope you never need it, but you’re certainly glad you have it when you do.”

The key to keeping grubs under control in his clients’ lawns is to focus on the big picture, particularly what a lawn care program attempts to achieve.

“Don’t sell the tree. Sell the shade,” Rankin says about encouraging a preventive grub control program with residential and commercial clients. “You’re not selling (grub) control. You’re selling a healthy lawn. We care for the lawn, and (grub control) is a normal standard of maintaining turf.”

When customers hesitate, Rankin forewarns the consequences of ignoring preventive grub treatments. He’s witnessed several turf repair jobs that cost a client 10 to 15 times the amount of a standard preventive grub-control program.

“Many times, clients claim they’ve never had a grub problem in the past,” Rankin adds. “That’s great, but white grubs can come anytime and devastate a lawn because they chew the roots off (the plants). Then, they turn into Japanese beetles and infest the surrounding landscape.”

Stay ahead, not behind

From a chemical standpoint, Gerry White, owner of pH Lawn Care in Ipswich, Mass., agrees that a preventive treatment strategy is the most effective way to address grub prevention.

“If you’re trying to kill them curatively, then you’re just chasing them,” he says. “And at that point, the damage is done.” White’s client portfolio is 90 percent residential and 10 percent commercial clients. The company primarily offers lawn care.

Grub damage manifests itself as growing and expanding irregular patches in the turf that peak in August, often being mistaken for drought damage. However, unlike drought damage, grub-damaged turf easily peels back from the soil due to a lack of roots.

Curative treatments can be tricky. At that stage, White uses trichlorfon, a fast-acting and effective chemical tool for controlling white grubs as well as mole crickets, sod webworms, cutworms and armyworms. However, the insecticide has a short lifespan and needs watering into the soil within three days of application to be effective.

Chlorantraniliprole is White’s weapon of choice for preventive grub control. Applied between late spring and mid-July, when environmental conditions encourage grubs to hatch and start their life cycles, chlorantraniliprole controls the pests at a foliar and systemic level and remains effective for a considerable time following a single application — as long as two seasons. White prefers to apply the product at a reduced rate.

“I talked with entomologists and asked if I could use (chlorantraniliprole) at a lower rate — a half rate — to give me one year of coverage, which is a better fit in my overall (lawn care) program,” White says. “They all said yes. And I’ve never had any breakthroughs to speak of … even at a lower rate.”

While White does not charge separately for grub control, it’s part of his overall lawn care program, he says using chlorantraniliprole at a lower rate reduces his costs by around 2.5 percent compared to the standard application rate.

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Mike Zawacki

Mike Zawacki is a Cleveland-based writer covering the landscape and turf industries for nearly two decades.

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