houstworksMay 23, 2009

Voles!!! Voles!!! Voles!!!!

Do you think they ate a 2" high lily and took the whole

darn thing under ground?

There are holes around nearby and all over.

We probably have moles too.

I'm guessing it's just like they say

the voles are using the moles tunnels.

I see long raised up lines of dirt in the grass.

We have lots of grubs.

And I see dirt piles too.

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Death to voles!!!!

Yes, they can eat a whole lily, heck they ate my rose bushes! Get on top of the grubs this year. Beneficial nematodes (available through Gardens Alive) used liberally (Not cheap but very effective) have eliminated our grub problem and, along with the cats, eliminated the moles and voles.

Good luck in the battle to come.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 3:56PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Grr! Don't get me started about voles!

Below I pasted a link to a search here on the NE forum, because there have been several threads on voles (some courtesy of me, lol!). Hopefully you can find something in them to help you - or at least to realize you are not alone!

Good luck!!!

Here is a link that might be useful: vole threads

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 7:19PM
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ctlady_gw(z6 CT)

Lots of information out there on both -- my guess, if you're seeing piles of dirt in your lawn, is that the culprits are moles (better to have than voles!!) You may have both since voles often follow moles and use their tunnels. Voles are vegetarians; moles are carnivores (eating your grubs, earthworms, etc.) Also, mole "trails" are raised; our vole trails this winter were basically "mowed" strips of grass under the snowcover. No dirt, just the "cut" grass pushed to one side and a close-cut trail (as if someone took an itsy-bitsy lawnmower and cut a 1.5" wide swath, leaving all the clipping to one side or the other).

On the plus side (so far, knock on wood), we had a MASSIVE infestation of voles last winter, and I have examined every plant in my beds at this point, and the only "victim" I've found so far is (possibly) the weakest, smallest of my new blueberry bushes (it wasn't looking too well to begin with, and I haven't pulled it out yet to look at the trunk carefully). Nothing else has shown the slightest damage...(again, LOUD knock on wood!)

You can find good info on voles on the Kemper site as well (just go to "Pests" and select "Voles and Mice"...


Here is a link that might be useful: Good picture of mole tunnel...

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 8:55PM
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didan(6, NE Mass.)

This thread may have helped us solve one of our winter mysteries. When the snow melted we found that something had been chowing on plants in our heather bed -- some heathers completely mowed down, and blue star juniper and a rhinegold arborvitae gnawed at and never bouncing back in small parts. Across the driveway, we had damage on gold thread cypresses and a lot of lavender was just shredded. We thought maybe it could have been a rabbit (some branches on blue rug junipers were cut off at 45 degrees). Maybe a rabbit did some of the damage, but it now seems like a vole did most of it.

Anyway -- thanks for the links; we'll read up on vole prevention. We took comfort this winter knowing that our heathers were protected from winter cold by all that snow, but we never imagined something was gnawing away at it all under the snow! I guess that's one of the things about gardening - -it's always a learning experience!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 9:34PM
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ctlady_gw(z6 CT)

And for those of you who missed my thread this winter... here's what appeared when OUR snow melted (these are definitely from voles -- hard to tell from the photos, but there's no actual dirt piles, just the grass clipped right down to the soil level and the "clippings" piled to the sides of the runs)

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 9:51PM
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Why do you think Harry Potter called the essence of evil-- Vole-de-mort?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 2:54PM
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whitegarden(Z5 MA)

As most of the regulars on this board can verify, I can relate.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 4:18PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA


Good one, Ginny. Does Hogwarts have a pesticide catalog?


    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 5:14PM
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whitegarden(Z5 MA)

I wish Hogwarts had a potion or a spell to make them disappear!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 8:12PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Very funny, Ginny! LOL!

I'll never think of He-who-must-not-be-named the same way again, lol!


    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 8:14PM
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what are you doing to save your plants from voles? lost one bed of hosta,2nd bed damaged. attempts to save some of plaants incl replanting inside a metal flashing connector or a gutter filter basket both found at home depot...put vole rock,oystershell and dried blood below the plants and around the plants and sprinkled with plantskydd (also mainly blood).....did this to about 20-25 plants....couldnt do them all as exhausting.....tried alum flashing around part of garden but n.e. rocky soil made this impossible, hardware cloth the same.....do not see further damage to protected plants.....3rd lg garden on hillside not touched yet except for rabbitt salad....plantskydd used there....natch the vole beasties got my favorite (unidentified so cant replace) hosta!!!.....a good reason to avoid monoculture, but i just love hosta!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 3:25AM
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I have some pictures of the damage.

Over the weekend I went out and bought more lilies.
I also bought some poultry shells.
It says calcium and shell products on the bag.
We'll see what happens.
I did use a small amount of cayenne pepper too.

I think my Tiger Lilies that I moved into the yard
from the roadside can withstand the voles much better.
Maybe because they are more established and also I can't
tell there is damage.


There are 2 holes in this photo

Mole Hole I think

Very close to Iris and Peonies

So far, I have placed a mouse trap under a bucket
with a brick on top of the bucket.
Nothing has happened to it for 4 days.
I didn't block off the other holes like I should though.

The Poultry Shell I hope that works.

I will use chicken wire but as a last resort.

Thanks for all the help on this post!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 10:31AM
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vickima(z5 MA)

ginny, as someone who suffered mightily from voles last year, I loved your Vole-de-mort reference!! First time I've laughed about something vole-ish. I got barn cats this winter and have my fingers crossed that they will control the population this year. Yesterday I replanted 12 of the alpine strawberries they destroyed last fall.

Re: grubs and beneficial nematodes I recently learned of this NH company and ordered from them a few weeks ago. *Very* helpful owner, lots of info on site, and local too! I have no affiliation with them, just thought some might like to know about him.

. . . Well that's odd. GardenWeb told me the name of the company was implicated in spam on the site. I'd like to believe this company's name is similar to another and they haven't really been spamming the site, but anyway, if anyone is interested in the link you can email me.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 10:48AM
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whitegarden(Z5 MA)

My activity has quieted down considerably. I almost hate to write that for fear of jinxing myself. Of the half-dozen deterrents, at least one seems to be working. Wish I could narrow it down, but I am just glad they seem to be lessening!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 11:31AM
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ctlady_gw(z6 CT)

The mounded trails of dirt look more like moles. Tunnel openings look like our vole openings -- we had nothing that looks like your dirt mounds (and we know we have voles since our cat has provided us with a couple of samples...)

I gather it's more common than not to have both since the voles follow the moles or vice versa and they use the same tunnel openings, etc.

My activity has lessened greatly, too, which is kind of what the DEP guy had suggested would happen -- the voles would return to the meadow that adjoins our lawn as soon as it provided them with cover (it's now about a foot tall so plenty of cover and presumably plenty of plant roots to munch). I am amazed, given how many trails we had in the winter, that I have not seen any real damage -- and nothing I could directly attribute to vole munching. I don't have many bulbs -- just daffodils -- but I do have iris and lilies in the actual gardens (some distance from the vole trails) and nothing seems harmed. (Plus nothing is MISSING!) So either we just got lucky or the DEP guy's prediction of a natural cyclical "spike" in activity is spot-on. (He also noted that if they are in the lawn, they will be inclined to depart once weekly mowing, etc. begins since they don't like either the vibration or the noise from a mower. We've actually been mowing more often (twice a week) with the lawn tractor in part to discourage them from staying -- maybe that's what's done it, but my lawn has filled in, there's no plant damage save perhaps one blueberry bush, and I'm crossing my fingers and toes.... !

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 11:50AM
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Oh dear...yes...voles...OK, here is a new weapon which (I think) is working. Last year when I had terrible vole problems one day, mostly to relieve my frustration, I took the hose and filled in those little round golf ball sized holes with water everytime I saw one. And it seemed to work. Vole activity stopped. Then later I read about farmers in Mexico (I think it was there) who had fields full of voles and they put trenches of water around their fields and got rid of them. I don't quite remember how this worked, but at any rate it was using water.

This spring when the snow melted I immediately flooded all visible holes. No return so far. I also decided to flood the mole tunnels in the lawn. Probably didn't need to do that as mowing the grass evidently works too. However...it is very theraputic!! I also lost a couple of mature blue rug junnipers which are in a far part of my yard...they are riddled with tunnels and the centers are completely dead, although there is still about a foot of green on the end of every branch. Will they recover??? We will see!

I'll be interested to see if anybody else tries drowing voles or at least making life so soggy that they go away in frustration. I also figure that in filling the holes with water if there are babies - which I am told are numerous in vole families - are being eliminated and in a way that is quick, safe (no poison) and painless. I am a very non violent person, but two years ago lost MANY plants to these guys and don't want to go through that again.


    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 9:09PM
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whitegarden(Z5 MA)

Flooding is about the only thing I haven't tried. Good to know I have one more technique if the eight or so I have been using let me down.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2009 at 7:46AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Well, I've tried flooding to a certain extent. Not on a large, consistent scale, but more like watering a bed, finding a hole, and in frustration just shooting water into the hole until it backwashes. Personally I don't think it helps much, at least not the haphazard way I do it.

I have the most problems in my best beds (which kind of makes sense - soil is easier for the varmints to work in) and the water drains fairly quickly from the tunnels and into the ground, so I don't know what it accomplishes really, other than for me to blow off some steam with the hose on "jet", lol.


    Bookmark   May 28, 2009 at 8:12AM
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Never had this much activity from voles. Might be the dry Spring we had - our property is wooded behind our huge backyard which is often VERY wet and this year it's dry and the vole tunnels seem to be everywhere.

They aren't eating the plants but go right for the rows of peas, beans, radishes, beets where the soil is soft and moist, also pushing up tomato and pepper plants. I mash the tunnels down with my foot and they just push them back up again. So I tried ripping out the tunnels with my bare hands. They'd dig UNDER the trench! Sometimes the hole would go so deep, I'd have to dig it up with the shovel. Even WHILE I'm ripping out and digging in the garden, I'll turn around and see they'd pushed up what I'd just pushed down. I thought, I bet if I just wait and watch, I'll see movement. Sure enough, within about 2 minutes I see the soil moving. Poised over the quivering mound with my spade, bring it down hard several times. Nothing. Go in the house for lunch. Come out and it had repaired the burrow where I'd just tried to kill it! So I wait and watch again. Sure enough ... soil moving, get down on my hands and knees, hand poised ready to plunge and grab the little b@stard ... a dime sized hole falls open and poof! Gone. Didn't return. My husband comes out there and looks at all the mess I'd made and said, "Did you ever see that movie, Caddy Shack?" No.

There are still tunnels and we've tried mouse traps and those didn't work. Bought poison but after reading the instructions, decided to use as a LAST resort. So, I've been using a combination of techniques/substances. Human urine, castor oil, sour milk, ammonia, dog turds, blocking the tunnels with a barrier (heavy plastic pieces) and still pushing down or ripping up the tunnels. If I can just keep them out of my garden, we can buckle down and try to get the population under control this winter when they are more vulnerable. We had a mild winter last season and I think that's also responsible for the population bloom.

Flooding isn't an option as we try our best to conserve water.

I don't know if predatory animals would be effective - day or night because I've never even seen one. Perhaps a terrier that could sniff one out and dig it up. My Lab has no interest, or even awareness of them.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 1:21PM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

A couple of cats who are good hunters will take care of your problem. One of the problems with using poison is that veterinarians at Tufts have found traces of the poison in Red Tail Hawks that have been treated there.

So I bought an enclosed mouse trap at Amazon. I bait it with a piece of apple then put a few poison pellets inside it. The vole goes in and then dies inside the trap. I dispose of the evidence in the trash so no wildlife is effected.


Here is a link that might be useful: Multiple Catch Mouse trap

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 9:02PM
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terrene(5b MA)

When this thread originally posted, I hadn't had any problems with voles. But during the winter of 2010-11, the vole population exploded underneath all the snow. I discovered unprecedented losses of many plants when the snow melted. And voles and chipmunks were running around everywhere!

The cat caught dozens of voles throughout the spring and summer last year and brought them largely under control. However, the front garden up near the sidewalk (where the cat doesn't hunt because it's too close to the road) was still experiencing losses up until this spring. All the bulbs except Daffs, Echinacea, 1/2 the big Butterfly Bush, Sedum and more - gone!

Desperate, I tried a mole/vole trap, with no success (probably I didn't use it effectively). Then I read about the castor oil/urine mixture recommended on the Hosta forum, mixed that up and sprinkled the remaining plants in the front garden (except for Daffs and Foxglove - voles don't eat those). It worked!!

When I started transplanting stuff back into the garden to replace losses, I use hardware cloth cages encircling the roots of the plants. That works too!!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 1:30AM
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runktrun(z7a MA)

With two cats who bring home multiple moles and voles daily I was shocked that I had a ton of damage to lawn and garden. I bought enough Mole Max to treat my entire property but and was really disappointed when I read I need to treat spring summer and fall. Ugh another chore.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 6:58AM
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terrene, can you point me over to the posting about the castor oil mixture? Can't seem to find it and would like to follow the posting..


    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 9:15PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi Linda, here is a link to one thread: Organic control for voles - Castor Oil

Can't remember exactly where I read the recipe, but the one I tried was a spoonful of castor oil and a cup of human urine. I used the CVS brand of castor oil. After sprinkling this over the remaining plants, the carnage immediately stopped. IIRC the theory is that the castor oil makes the roots taste terrible. This seemed to be the case, as I did notice some digging, but no more eating of roots. :)

This does not seem to have any negative affect on the plants themselves. The castor oil is really sticky and does coat the inside of the watering can, so I have one that is dedicated for this.

For their most favorite plants, like Echinacea, Liatris, and Salvia 'Black & Blue', I went ahead and put hardware cages around the roots at planting time. This works extremely well, although the roots might outgrow the cages, we'll see.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 10:20PM
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