Though if they are not treated carefully, they might as well be.
The tiny swimming creatures we use to protect your lawn from damaging white grubs remind us a lot of the ‘instant pets’ advertised in the backs of comic books.
Although both are friendly, the way they’re handled and what they are expected to do are very different though.
Sea Monkeys, technically brine shrimp, are distributed as dried eggs which hatch when put into water. They have a great shelf life and can swim around their bowl easily, with no demands but to eat the food you give them and perform simple tricks.
Nematodes however, are shipped alive. If they are not cared for from the moment they leave the supplier to when they’ve destroyed their targets, they will die. They work a lot harder than Sea Monkeys too. They attack root-eating white grubs, which you can learn more about on the LawnSavers pest identification page.
There are two main kinds of grub-killing Nematodes: predatory and parasitic. The Nematodes you will see for sale in garden centers and bog box stores are mostly parasitic. They lie in wait in the soil until a grub comes by, and then attack. They are also smaller and are more susceptible to UV and moisture loss.
If you are planning to go this route, a big concern is how the retailer has taken care of the nematodes. If kept on the shelf for too long or allowed to get too hot or cold, the nematodes you buy could already be dead. Once you have made your purchase, take them home and use them immediately. Even being in a hot car while you run other errands will be fatal to them. A bigger concern is what time of year you are buying them- Extensive scientific field research shows they only work in the later summer months (Late August through Early October).
You will also need to prepare your lawn ahead of time – since Nematodes are swimmers, your lawn needs a good soaking before you apply. You will need a sprayer to get the water you’ve mixed the nematodes in onto your lawn. Timing is vital – Nematodes can only kill grubs after they have hatched but before they grow too large. Ideally, make sure it is a cloudy day too, to protect them from drying out, UV rays and the heat of the direct sun, and make sure to agitate your sprayer frequently to ensure even distribution. Aftercare is also key – the lawn cannot be allowed to dry out before they have done their job. If you carry out these steps, and the Nematodes land near the white grubs, the grubs will be killed fairly reliably.
The Nematodes we use are more more advanced, different than those available in garden centres and I can confidently say, better! Predatory nematodes (S. Scarabaei) are active hunters, swimming through the saturated soil to find the white grubs where they hide. We pick them up right from the manufacturer and keep them climate-controlled to keep them healthy and ready to hunt. We apply them the week we get them from the supplier and apply them with ample water as a delivery agent when we do. All you need to do is water your lawn before we come and keep watering after the application to maintain moisture and prevent them from drying out. Keeping your little lawn defenders alive and hunting hinges on how well you can keep them moist and proper timing!