Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Case of the Mysterious Night Visitor

Last month some of our residents reported mysterious nocturnal visitors who were leaving shallow cuts of rolled up turf in their backyards:

One of them sent the pictures to a friend who came back with the verdict: Raccoons!

Apparently, raccoons search for grubs under the turf, which we are particularly susceptible to because of the newly-laid sod. According to eHow:
"Raccoons enjoy eating grubs and worms. Consider raccoons as your pests if you know you have problems with grubs in your lawn. Shredded grass or patches of rolled grass are signs of raccoon activity."
Our lawncare contractor says, however, that the grubs are probably not near the surface at this time of year, and the animal is probably searching for where it has found grubs in the past -- and because it is not finding them, it is ranging over a wide area.

Although this specific issue belongs to the individual homeowners, we understand from those who have done some gardening that there are lots of grubs in our soil (probably from Japanese beetles), and that it won't be effective to treat only a small area.

Our course of action:
  • Next year we will add a couple of pesticide treatments for the entire community to the lawn program, which will help the roots of your grass, and follow up with annual applications each summer. Fortunately, this fell within the lawn maintenance budget as the mowing contract was lower than planned for.
  • In the meantime, putting the turf back in place and/or applying repellent will be up to the homeowners affected.

For those interested in the full recommendation from our contractor:
"The damage is being done by a raccoon, skunk, fox or some other nocturnal animal. It is there looking for grubs, which it has found in the past. 
Currently, I do not believe you will find any grubs close to the surface, like in spring or summer. The insect goes down into the soil to winter over. What we are seeing is the animal looking for them, and they aren’t there, which is why [the] damage is so wide spread over the area. If there were grubs there would be very large attached areas of damage, instead of a lot of small areas, like it is now. 
I would not recommend putting any insect control down at this point for it will not be effective in taking care of the grubs or preventing the animal from continuing to look for them...I am recommending that next year, late Spring and again in midsummer, to put down a grub control on the property. 
The spring application will take care of those grubs that are currently there [in] the turf areas, and the summer application will take care of any newly hatched eggs that are laid by the Japanese Beetles. This treatment will give control for the remainder of the year. 
After 2013, you will only need to treat in midsummer. Once the animal doesn’t find grubs where it is digging, it will stop. I have seen this at another property and it took us [a] year to a year and half to cut down on the digging. This year there were three or four small areas that were dug up."

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