If you’ve ever witnessed your lawn or garden seemingly overtaken with moles or voles, you know it’s no laughing matter. Looking at the destruction caused by moles and voles can be quite frustrating and exasperating. However, armed with determination, perseverance and knowledge of the “enemy” you can get control of the situation and outwit the little critters.
Moles are insectivores (insect-eating) and belong to the same family as shrews and bats. From the tip of their nose to their tail, moles vary in size from 4 to 8 inches. The have large paddle-like front feet with prominent claws designed for very efficient digging. Moles have very tiny eyes and lack external ears. While moles are virtually blind, they can detect dark and light. They have elongated heads and snouts and short necks. Their fur can vary from brown to black to gray. They are rarely seen as they live underground. Their diet consists of earthworms, grubs, insects and larvae.
Moles are solitary animals that come together to breed once a year in late winter to early spring. The gestation period ranges from 2-4 weeks and they usually give birth to a littler of four to six young. The young leave their nests after about 4 weeks after birth.
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Moles make their dens in areas under trees, buildings and sidewalks. A mole’s den may consist of many chambers connected with runways. These deeply dug runways provide the mole passage from his living area to his hunting grounds as well as provide protection against predators such as foxes, coyotes, dogs, snakes, skunks, badgers, weasels, hawks and owls. The more shallow tunnels near or at the surface of the ground are hunting grounds for moles. It is through these tunnels that moles look for their food and often these tunnels are used only once by the mole.
It may be hard to envision anything good about moles especially if you’ve twisted your ankle on a mole tunnel. Despite our feelings, moles do fit in with nature’s grand plan and provide a very valuable service when it comes to managing soil and sub-soils. The tunneling activity of moles loosens soil providing aeration. As the mole tunnels, soils shift blending the surface soil with deeper sub-soil thereby improving overall soil quality. In addition, moles consume the numerous garden pest insects, grubs and larvae. They are hearty eaters consuming up to 100% of their body weight daily. Although you may need to move the moles out of your lawn, realize that a mole may have eaten a good share of Japanese Beetle grubs. Try to find some consolation in that.
The two most common signs of mole activity are raised ridged areas in lawns and the traditional molehill. The ridges are caused by tunneling just below the surface of the ground. The cone-shaped molehill is formed by the dirt a mole excavates as he digs his deeper tunnels around his den and living chambers.
Moles can be a very big problem for the homeowner. Their tunneling can wreck havoc on lawns causing unsightly ridges in lawns and they can damage the root system of turf causing the raised areas of grass to dry out and die. Their tunneling may uproot plants and flowers causing plant damage and death. Moles actively feed day and night all year long. With the ability to tunnel up to 100 feet in a single day (about 15 feet per hour) it’s important to take action to control moles immediately.
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Voles are rodents and belong to the same family as rats and mice. They vary in size from 3 to 5 inches from nose to tail and have stouter bodies and shorter tails than mice. Meadow voles live above ground and pine voles live underground. Voles may be active both day and night. They spend most of their time in tunnel systems one to a few inches below the ground. Voles eat grasses, roots, tubers and other plant material, as well as seeds, fruits, bark and underground fungi. Voles are also known at meadow mice, field mice and pine mice.
Voles are prolific breeders and can produce four to six litters a year. The gestation period is about 3 weeks. Litter sizes can vary from 2 to 5. They reach maturity in about 40 days and can live up to two years.
Generally, voles prefer grassy areas and underbrush where their runways and grass tunnels are not easily spotted from predators such as hawks, owls, foxes, snakes and cats. They will readily use and feed within tunnels created by moles.
Signs of voles in your garden may include runways on the surface of the ground on in your lawn. The runways may be about one to two inches wide. A vole’s burrow can be identified by holes found in lawns or around the base of trees. The grass immediately surrounding the hole will be very short. Unlike a molehill, there is no soil mounding around the opening.
Vole damage can occur at all times of the year. In the winter, when food supply is short, voles will gnaw the bark on shrubs and along the root collar of small trees. This can cause severe damage or even kill young trees. Plants that voles have eaten will be left with a pointed tip at the end of the stem. When voles eat roots and tubers underground, your faced with a dead plant that when lifted has no visible root structure left.
Many methods, humane and otherwise, are used for ridding moles and voles from gardens and home lawns. Methods that include killing moles and voles by trapping and poison will not be addressed on this site and are best researched elsewhere. Voles are a protected species in some areas. Check with your local animal regulations regarding voles.
Trenching: Once type of barrier that can be used is to dig a trench around your garden. This may only be practical in smaller vegetable gardens.
Wire Screen Mesh: Another barrier method is to line a garden bed with hardware cloth. For moles, the barrier needs to be dug to a depth of 30 inches and extend 5-6 inches above the ground. This can be a rather labor intensive task, not to mention impractical in anything but a tiny garden.
Wire screening can effectively be used to keep voles from destroying tree trunks by wrapping mesh around the trunk and reaching at least 18-20 inches high.
Bulbs may be protected from voles by building wire cages around the planting of bulbs. Depending on the soil conditions and the number of bulbs, this can be another time consuming task.
Ultrasonic and Vibration Devices that rid Moles and Voles from your Yard
These devices produce intermittent pulses that are intended to annoy moles and voles chasing them off your property.
Moles do eat grubs. Grubs are generally considered garden pests, so getting rid of grubs may be beneficial to your lawn and garden as well. It is preferable to use products that are environmentally safe to eliminate the grubs. Effective alternative to toxic chemicals should always be the first resort!
There are suggestions that used kitty litter sprinkled in mole and vole every three feet will repel the moles and voles. Whether it actually works or not is debatable and placement would be critical to be effective. Since moles can dig an elaborate and extensive tunnel system, determining the right runs and tunnels to treat could be daunting and frustrating task.
April showers do more than bring May flowers. Spring rains keep rodent populations in check. Both the adult and young of many animals that nest along or in the ground are susceptible to drowning.
There are numerous references that a piece of (chewed) gum placed in a mole hole will entice a mole. The mole is supposed to ingest, or choke on the gum and die. Since moles are insectivores, there is doubt that moles would actually be attracted to chewing gum.
The following suggestions employ commonly found household chemicals. Their mention is included only to cover the various methods that people talk about. There is no evidence of them being effective. And they reach beyond the targeted pest. Furthermore, there are serious health and environmental considerations to using these chemicals as suggested and they should not be considered.
Some suggestions for repelling Moles and Voles include pouring ammonia down the holes and burrows of moles and voles. An alternative method is to soak cloth in ammonia and then shove the cloth down the holes. Another household chemical that is used in a similar fashion to repel moles and voles is chlorine bleach.
Mothballs or moth flakes are also touted as a supposed mole and vole repellent. Again, the idea is to sprinkle the moth balls down the holes, tunnels and burrows of mole and voles.
Voles do not live long in areas without habitat. Voles like living in mulch, leaf and grass piles and tall ground covers. To keep voles out of the garden, do not mulch close to trees, and do not leave un-turned piles of leaves and lawn clippings around the yard. Keep mulch around shrubs to a minimum.
Because moles and voles do have a part in the natural food chain, and are natural inhabitants of forest and meadow areas, killing them is not the best option. Use a natural repellent that works well and is persistent, such as I Must Garden’s Mole and Vole repellent. Our hose-end repellent is easy to use and apply to large areas to move moles and voles out of your garden. Simply attach to a hose and you’re ready to spray. For small, selective areas, try our 32oz Trigger Sprayer bottle.
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