It’s never a pleasant surprise to find voles lurking in your garden: they tear up everything that you worked so hard to plant, leaving a path of destruction and waste in their wake. If you’ve found voles in your garden, it’s understandable that you’d be upset. From identifying their telltale tunneling styles to stopping them from eating all of your delicious vegetables from your garden, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you want to prevent voles from invading your garden, or if you already have a vole problem and you’re looking to get rid of them with finality, please keep reading for solid, reliable advice on how to fix it for good.
Mole Tunnels vs. Vole Tunnels: Clues for Proper Identification
At a glance, it may seem difficult to tell mole tunnels and vole tunnels apart. While you may be thinking, “I don’t care! I want them gone!” it’s actually essential to learn the difference so you can plan your assault against these unwanted vermin.
While they are relatively similar in appearance, there are several key distinctions that you’ll observe that will make telling these different types of tunnels apart a cinch.
- Mole tunnels have “heaps” – piles of soil that is conical in shape that gives its location away immediately.
- Mole holes are deeper and are used for breeding, eating, and recreation.
- The soil above a mole tunnel softer and more crumbly underfoot.
- Mole tunnels are typically slightly more than two inches in diameter.
- Mole tunnels are more meandering, versus a direct route from hole to hole.
- The tunnels that moles make typically do not have exits, since moles do not plan on leaving their tunnels.
The phrase “Make a Mountain out of a Molehill” comes from the little piles of soil that moles leave behind when they burrow. The idiom was first found in writing in 1548 (before then, molehills were called “wantitumps”) and it perfectly describes the seemingly-unreasonable outrage that comes from finding on in your yard!
- Voles don’t have very strong front feet for digging, and they are known to take over abandoned mole tunnels.
- Unlike moles, voles do not leave heaps around your yard.
- Vole tunnels tend to be closer to the surface. The soil feels more tightly packed than mole tunnels.
- Vole tunnels are quite petite, usually between one to two inches in diameter.
- Vole holes are very direct, leading from one hole to the next.
- Voles use their tunnels for eating, rather than for leisure time or mating. Because of this, they tend to leave several golf-ball sized holes around your yard.
Knowing the difference is the first step in properly eliminating these varmint from your lawn!
What Kind of Damage Can They Cause?
Voles tend to live in colonies, so their destructive nature can quickly add up. You’ll never find a solitary vole in your garden, so if you spot one, then there’s undoubtedly several more hiding nearby.
Because they tend to favor foliage and plants and are almost exclusively herbivore, they’ll absolutely decimate your garden in no time.
Voles like to eat the following:
- Roots and bark.
- Tubers (like potatoes).
- All vegetables (like turnips, carrots, and lettuce).
- All fruit.
- Fruit trees.
- Flowers (yes, even your lovely flower garden is at risk!)
Sometimes, because they like to gnaw on roots and bark, they’ll start to devour a tree from the bottom up. By doing so, they can ruin the structural integrity of the tree, preventing the tree from being able to absorb water or nutrients. This will effectively kill the tree, making it unable to yield any further crop for you.
Vole Tunnels and Burrowing in Lawn
The sudden discovery of wilted, dead plants is a sure sign that there’s a vole in your yard. Because they tend to burrow underground, and are most active during dawn and dusk, it’s oftentimes hard to catch them in the act.
If you step outside and start to notice track marks in your yard and your plants are slumping, it’s a good chance that there are voles in your lawn.
Here are some of the more common signs of a vole burrowing and making tunnels in your yard:
- Plants suddenly dying.
- Chew marks on plants.
- Dirty, patchy paths on your lawn.
- 2-inch holes.
- Weak, spongy soil.
- Cats congregating (They love to hunt voles!)
Cats are natural predators for voles. For more information on how to get rid of voles naturally, please click here.
Voles Holes in My Yard
Holes in your yard from voles aren’t just ugly, they can be downright dangerous, too!
A vole hole can make the soil weak, and children playing in your yard can slip and twist an ankle. If you’re out mowing your lawn, you may not spot the hole in time and can accidentally catch your foot on it.
Another unexpected problem that can arise from from vole holes are fines from your neighbors!
Many communities have requirements for the members to maintain and upkeep their home and their yard. People take great pride in keeping their lawn looking clean and tidy, but voles simply don’t care that you’re trying to maintain appearances.
Failure to upkeep lawns can lead to a knock on the door from your local Homeowner Association (HOA). These HOAs can inflict steep fines onto neighbors who aren’t doing their part to keep the neighborhood looking nice.
Ways to Keep Voles Out of Your Yard
Keeping voles out of your yard can be a laborious process, but having the peace of mind that you successfully eradicated them is immensely rewarding.
There are several different approaches you can take to keep them out, but taking it step by step can ensure that you’re thorough and final.
- Keep your yard inhospitable to voles by keeping the grass trimmed and weeds at bay.
- Get rid of their food sources. For instance, voles love to eat grubs, so by getting rid of the grubs, you’ll send the voles packing to find another food source.
- Install barriers. Buy hardware cloth (a fine mesh wire) and install it around your plants, both above and below the soil.
- Choose plants that are repulsive to voles – some are natural repellents, such as peppermint and hot peppers. For more information about vole repellents, please click here.
- Install traps. Use peanut butter as bait; voles can’t resist the sticky stuff!For more information on vole traps, please click here.
Following these steps will help you be confident that you’ll be rid of voles quickly and permanently!
Keeping Voles from Eating Bulbs
Voles love to eat flower bulbs and can ruin your beautiful garden before it’s even had a chance to fully bloom.
To keep voles from eating your flower bulbs, try the following:
- Stuff steel wool into vole holes to keep them from accessing your bulbs.
- Use empty plastic strawberry baskets to plant your bulbs to prevent voles from getting to them below ground.
- Re-till the area around your flowers. It’ll collapse the vole tunnels and kill them.
- Try sprinkling predator urine around your flowers.
- Place chili pepper around your plants.
- Lay down gravel; voles don’t want to dig through sharp rocks to get to food.
You can also try planting flowers that voles don’t like, such as marigolds and daffodils. Staggering them next to your cherished flower bulbs can confuse hungry voles.
Preventing voles from getting into your garden in the first place is a much simpler and more straightforward solution, as once they invade, it’s more difficult to get rid of them.
Try the following to prevent voles from sneaking in:
- Maintain your lawn.
- Till it frequently.
- Get a cat.
- Install a wire mesh fence.
- Place a perimeter around your plants.
By making your garden an unwelcoming environment to voles, you can keep them from sullying up your garden and destroying all of your hard work.
Keeping Voles Out of the Vegetable Garden
Many of the same techniques that work on preventing moles away can also be employed to keep voles out of your vegetable garden. By installing perimeters around your prized plants, planting them in strawberry baskets (or yogurt cups), and keeping your garden tilled and weeds away, you can keep voles from claiming your vegetables as their own.
If all of these conventional tricks don’t work, try some of this quirky methods to evict those loathsome voles:
- Sprinkle cat litter into the vole holes. The smell will scare them off.
- Leave chewing gum for them find. It will choke them.
- Flood their tunnels. Clay-like soil is better for this versus soft, loamy soil.
- Use vibration or ultrasonic noise devices to drive them away.
Having voles in your garden can be devastating, especially if you see all of your hard work and investment fall apart before your eyes. Taking careful measures to keep them from getting in is a great way to avoid this kind of destruction, but if you do find voles in your garden, don’t panic. Now that you know how to get rid of them completely, you can swiftly destroy them and get back to pottering around happily in your peaceful little garden.