Grub Control

by Carl Strang

Earlier this week a number of small, freshly dug holes appeared in scattered parts of the mansion lawn at Mayslake Forest Preserve.

The holes were small, 1-2 inches in diameter, and not very deep.

Considering the structure of the holes, their location, and the time of year, it was not a big challenge to identify them. In fact, I had seen such holes being dug one night when I was camping in Ohio in 2005.

The next day I had photographed one of those holes.

The excavator was a striped skunk, and it was after beetle grubs in the lawn. Here are my notes from that night in Ohio: “12SE05, Caesar Creek campground, southeastern Ohio. I saw much evidence of skunks in the area. In the dusk, a large beautiful individual whose broad back stripes had joined, giving it a white back with just a little black in the middle of the lower back, passed my campsite. Later in the dark, a smaller individual was digging grubs in the lawn of the adjacent campsite. This one was all black with a tuft of white on the head and another at the tip of the tail. It came as close as 15 feet, but turned away when I shined a light in its eyes. It moved slowly, sweeping its head back and forth and sniffing, but when it found something to dig it moved quickly, excavating and moving on within about 3 seconds.”

The holes at Mayslake might even have been dug by the same skunk rescued by Nikki earlier in the summer.

That skunk awaiting rescue in early July.

It can be alarming to find so many holes in your lawn, but keep in mind that the grubs could have done a lot more damage if left there. The skunk efficiently removed the grubs with the smallest of holes, incidentally aerating the lawn. The skunks strike me as being patient and economical, waiting until the grubs are big enough that they are both easy to sniff out and at their most nutritious food value. Hooray for skunks!

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