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Destructive grub infestations a hot topic at BDN Maine Bangor Garden Show and Spring Fling

Posted April 06, 2013, at 5:08 p.m.
Last modified April 07, 2013, at 6:01 p.m.

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The BDN Maine Garden Show featured 106 exhibitors and vendors this year. The show also expanded form its previous size.
The BDN Maine Garden Show featured 106 exhibitors and vendors this year. The show also expanded form its previous size. Buy Photo

BANGOR, Maine — About half of the people who stopped by the Quality Lawn Services booth — one of nearly 100 vendors at the BDN Maine Bangor Garden Show and Spring Fling — wanted to talk about lawn-devouring beetle larvae, known as grubs.

“We’re kind of keeping our fingers crossed because of the frost — it kills them if it’s deep enough,” Jim DiFrederico, sales rep for the Hampden lawn service, said Saturday of the white, immature beetles that kill lawns by feeding on the roots of grass.

“Last year, we had a huge grub problem,” Tracy Johnston of The Greenwork in Bangor said as people milled by his vendor booth.

While some at the annual garden show wanted to talk about preventing grubs from destroying their lawns, others wanted to break free of winter’s grip and see spring flowers in bloom and how landscape artists in the region had put them on display, said Pat Lemieux, BDN Maine Events Producer.

“We have nine different landscapers and 97 vendors,” he said. “We’ve got everything from garden supplies [to] landscaping design companies, but we also have golf vendors, a golf simulator, beer, wine and barbecue, and a children’s room operated by the Maine Discovery Museum, Bangor Y and others.”

The show has doubled in size over the last few years, he said.

The Bangor auditorium was filled with growing plants placed perfectly into rock and stone displays, some with moving water ponds or porches, and others with seating made from bent trees or stone.

Children could be seen on Saturday playing with a mini golf putting course, and a golf simulator was set up by the concessions area for adults who wanted to take a swing or two. Upstairs, the hallway leading to the Civic Center was filled with vendors selling plants, garden tools, Greek items made with herbs grown and packaged in southern Maine, pottery, and other items.

The civic center was filled with vendors selling garden decorative items, garden hoses and more garden tools, wooden toys, hot tubs and solar panels, as well as hot sauce, dips and honey made and packaged in Maine. This year’s show also featured live music.

By the time most homeowners realize they have a grub problem, it’s pretty much too late, said University of Maine environmental horticulture students Patrick Vaillencourt and Shawn Casey, who are both sophomores and already operate their own lawn care companies.

“They’re pretty destructive pests,” Vaillencourt said. “The best way to deal with them is to do preventative treatments.”

Homeowners who have a grub problem often see the damage in the spring left by animals who eat the young bugs when they emerge as mature, c-shaped larvae, said Ryan Peters, owner of Quality Lawn Care.

“When the frost is gone, the crows, robins and skunks are going to try to find them in the soil,” he said.

“I’ve seen [crows] take chunks of soil and throw them to get to them,” Johnston said.

“At that point, it’s too late [to save the lawn],” Casey said. “Basically, you have to dig it up, clean that all out and start fresh.”

Japanese beetles and European chafers hit the Bangor area hard last year, and it’s expected that the European Crane Fly may soon make its way to the region, adding a third grub to the list, DiFrederico said.

“That’s on the coast right now in the [Mount Desert Island] area,” he said.

The mature grubs that surface in the spring are hard to kill, so the best time to try to eradicate them is when they they lay their eggs, around mid-June or early July, all the lawn care specialists said.

“Last year, the snow covered them early and kept them warm,” DiFrederico said.

That didn’t happen this winter, he said, so “we’re hoping it’s not that bad this year.”

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