Is Milky Spore the Best Grub Killer?


If grubs are turning your lawn from a plush oasis to a brown desert, you're probably anxious to get rid of them. Milky spore is one of the solutions touted by garden experts as being environmentally friendly and effective. However, there are some disadvantages to using this bacteria to cure your lawn and plenty of alternatives if you decide to combine treatments or abstain from using milky spore altogether.

Milky Spore

  • Milky spore is a bacteria originally developed by the United States Department of Agriculture to kill grubs, especially scarab beetle larvae. It is so named for the milky white appearance it gives to infected grubs that digest the spores. The bacteria works by eating the grubs from the inside out. Milky spore comes in powder form and should be applied 1 teaspoon every 4 feet in a checkerboard design. You can apply it once the fear of frost is over.


  • Grubs are the larvae form of Japanese beetles or European chafer beetles. The beetles were accidentally introduced to the United States in the early part of the 20th century, originating in New Jersey in 1916 and spreading outward until their destruction was evident in half of the contiguous states. The larvae of the beetles dine on grass roots, causing bare, brown spots in the lawn. Once they become adults they eat plants and flowers, causing mass destruction to your garden area.


  • Milky spore need only be applied once and the benefits can last 10 to 20 years depending on the pest. It is not harmful to humans, plants or animals. The bacteria is also harmless to most beneficial insects. Milky spore can be purchased at your local greenhouse or on-line.


  • Milky spore is costly and only works over time, not immediately. Thus, you will need to use another pesticide until spores build up in your yard.

Alternatives or Additions

  • Carbaryl and trichlorfon are two chemical ingredients that can rid your lawn of these hungry pests in a matter of days. However, they may be harmful to children and pets.

    Tobacco is a common organic pesticide. Mixed with water, it can be sprayed onto plants to protect them from a variety of insects. Garlic, horseradish, cayenne and hot peppers, and spearmint, when crushed and mixed with water, can be used to cover plants and protect them from bugs.

    Another natural solution is to use diatomaceous earth. This organic pesticide will kill most bugs without harming animals, plants or children. It is made by grinding up fossilized water plants. Its razor-sharp yet microscopic edges cut up insects when they walk through the dust. Mix it into the top layer of dirt surrounding the bare spots in your lawn for a quick solution.

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  • Photo Credit Japanese Beetle image by Jim Mills from
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