Organic Control for Voles - Castor Oil

Steve Massachusetts Zone 5bOctober 20, 2011

I'm putting this in its own thread. Firstly, because it needs to be searchable and secondly, Richard Merritt of New Hampshire Hostas (from whom I learned of this control) recently posted a video and directions for this method on his website. Link below.

The video is rather long and rambling and includes a pileated woodpecker, but there is some essential information that is key for making this work.

Firstly, it should be done after frost and before the ground freezes. For many of us this time of year is already here or rapidly approaching. Secondly, you need to remove all the dead hosta leaves so that the material can soak into the soil and/or mulch. You want to give the area a good soaking so that it gets to the roots.

The formula is 2oz of Castor Oil and 2oz of Dishwashing liquid in a hose end sprayer for a large area. I'm not sure how large an area this will do but NH Hostas has a huge inventory. You can also do a small area with a watering can. The formula for that is 2 teaspoons of each with one gallon of water.

The critical part of this is to get full coverage. The results that NH Hostas had with this method were remarkable. Before using the Castor Oil treatment, they lost a large amount of their inventory, a large English Ivy bed and a large bed of ground cover Sedum. After using Castor Oil they had no losses in areas that were treated. What did happen was that the voles ate their lawn which was untreated.

That's an impressive result for an organic method of control that is relatively inexpensive. I'll be spraying my gardens right after frost this year.

Steve

Here is a link that might be useful: NH Hostas Vole Control video

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hostaLes(5)

Steve - that is great. I remember seeing my first pileated wooodpecker about 10 years ago and watched it in awe as it ripped 12-18 chunks of wood per "peck" out of a rotting tree looking for grubs, etc. I had see pics and was not prepaired for the real size of this bird.

The late fall application of castor oil does not seem to be an "iffy" way to prevent vole damage to my hosta gardens. The application is pretty simple for an age struggling hostaholic like me. I can do that.

I am sure you remembered that, in my opinion I have felt castor oil is a very viable treatment against voles, without having any really solid reason for it besides logic. Thanks for diving into the search for knowledge.

I am going to work with this application of combating voles and will publish my findings as they become,in my opinion, valid.

Les

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 4:20PM
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bernd ny zone5

I see a pileated woodpecker once in a year so it seems. One time just as I talked to a repair man outside, that bird started working on a dieing tree, what a show. Another time I saw it working on trees in neighbor's back yard and I kept staring at it to not miss anything, except the neighbors were showing their house for sale just that moment and made remarks about that crazy hosta guy staring into their yard without noticing them, and they did not see the bird.

About rodents. It seems to me when using that Castor oil you displace the rodents, they go elsewhere, continue to grow exponentially in their population. That means to prevent invasion into other parts of your property, you need to spray your whole property whenever needed. They will be waiting to invade again when you miss a beat!
Good luck!
Bernd

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 10:45AM
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hostaLes(5)

l don't agree with the exponential theory. If you condense an eco-environment for a species it reduces its reproduction. That being said, it is not a major issue IMO. No big thing, bernd. Think of reducing its successful zone over and over again and soon it will be a non-factor.

The Pileated Woodpecker seemed to me to resemble an ancient species. I visualized it in a paleo-whatever environment with dinosaurs and huge dragonflies in a monstrous fern forest. It s truly a rare and treasurable sight to behold. Unfortunately there is no way that we can ensure its successful survival since it is dependent upon the critters in dead trees for its food. I would stop watching the Black Hawks (I have been an addicted fan since 1959 and am a big fan of "Big Buf" from Minnesota) if I saw a pileated woodpecker in a maple tree in my yard.

Les

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 9:38PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

We have seen them more than once in Yosemite.

-Babka

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 11:13PM
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Moccasin(z9aMobileAL)

What a sight!!! My DH was out doing repairs to the edges of the roof this week, and there was a big round hole just beneath the gutters. He measured, but will have to come measure again, because I saw what was digging a hole there. It was the small red-headed woodpecker, very dedicated.

But the remedy for voles might be just what DH needs. I've watched the really ugly spread of little caved in tunnels in some of the flower beds, and by springtime it will be devastated. Great information to pass along to DH.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 11:53AM
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daniss

Thank you, Steve, for this post. I had an extensive hosta damage this year, so I immediately applied formula the same day you posted it. I used castor oil from the laxatives shelf in CVS store. I want to treat differ. areas of my garden and was searching the web for cheap Castor Oil.
http://www.baar.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=751M&Category_Code=
The link above offers special formula of Castor Oil for lawn and gardens, and they claim that other types of Castor Oil will not work. Checked the New Hampshire Hostas video and Richard Merritt didn't mention what kind of CO shoul be used.
What do you think?
Thanks

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 11:15AM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

Danis,

That sounds like a good find. I think I'll order some as well. Sounds like you have an experiment going. Half your garden was done with CVS castor oil and half with the stuff from Baar. I think NH Hostas got theirs from the Internet. Probably Amazon. I know it was in gallon containers because they had so many Hostas to treat.

Steve

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 2:35PM
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bernd ny zone5

Thanks for the link to Baar. They write that Castor oil is against other rodents too, like mice, moles and chipmunks. I have not seen voles and their damage, but seem to have field mice. Now I am getting interested, chipmunks are cute but become a nuisance. I guess it would be not appropriate to spray it on the soil in a vegetable garden.
Bernd

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 5:37PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Bernd-

Field mice = voles. Sorry for the bad news.

-Babka

Here is a link that might be useful: Wikipedia Voles

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 7:20PM
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bernd ny zone5

So I wrote wrong, sorry, I saw HOUSE mice, those with the white belly, see the link below. Two were dead, from my pellets I hope. I have no rodent eating hosta roots, therefore I assume that I do not have voles (= field mice). When I had hostas diminish severely, I now believe it was crown rot, because smaller size leaves appeared lateron and those plants survived. Other larger holes I think are from chipmunks, saw them use these.
Babka, thanks for the comment.
Bernd

Here is a link that might be useful: Wikipedia - House mouse

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 8:16PM
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daniss

Just went outside to clean up the bed (yes, the one that was treated with castor oil)for the first time after the snowstorm, and found out that my huge S&S was left with one tiny root, and the Rainbow's End was eaten to the point that it can't be saved! What a disappointment! I now think that plant hostas in wire baskets and a vole poison are still the best methods to continue gardening.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 12:59PM
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