I figured it was autumn today. Time to clean up the garden some. I cleared some dead tomato plants, harvested some chilies, and emptied some of the pots with annual ornamentals. While doing so, I glanced over some of the perennial potted plants, thinking I should bring some inside to overwinter. I noticed that one pot of pelargoniums did not look all that happy. They were not dead, but they have not been thriving this year either. I don’t like pelargoniums much anyway, so decided to dump them on the compost pile.

While pulling the plants from their pot, I immediately noticed that the roots had barely grown into the potting soil I planted them in. I placed the struggling plants in the corner of the compost heap, where they could continue to be, if they wanted to, and if the autumn weather permits. The rest of the pot’s contents I threw on the pile, covering up the senescing tomato stalks and dead annuals.

It immediately was clear why these pelargoniums had no roots to speak of.

In the soil lay a good handful of bulky, shiny, C-shaped grubs. Probably some kind of chafer. A female must have found her way to this very pot and dumped all her eggs in one basket, as I found none in any of the other pots.

Thick, shiny and soft. Grubs.

As an entomologist, it felt like hitting the jackpot.

Quite the handful. All from 3L of soil or so.

These grubs, or beetle larvae, have had a rough time with us humans. There’s a bad stigma attached to them, and people don’t like them so much. Most people treat them like the devil, sloshing insecticides onto their lawns to get rid of them, or – a better more environmentally friendly alternative – spread entomophagous nematodes, which will devour the grubs until they are gooey sacks of mush. Grubs of several species feed on roots, and most feed on decaying material. This is why they are unwanted guests in lawns, mostly because of the yellowing they may cause by damaging grass roots, and the fact that their predators, birds and mammals, may rip open your lawn.

Well. It’s about fucking time. I hate lawns anyway. Let them be ripped apart. Or even better. Rip them open yourself. If you wouldn’t have a lawn, but rather welcomed a more diverse native wildflower patch into your garden, chafer larvae would never be a cause for concern. They might still be there. Quite likely so. But their effects would be less obvious. Other animals will thank you for ripping out your lawn, too.

Yep. These grubs are welcome to stay in my garden. They’re now safely tucked away in the compost pile, perhaps chewing on the pelargoniums I put there.

I hope I’ll see them again once they have matured.

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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