Most gardeners think of moles when they notice that some critter is tunneling under their yard or garden. However, when plants and bulbs start disappearing, moles have nothing to do with it. Moles are insectivores, which means they only eat bugs, grubs and worms. If plants are falling over from chewed roots and bulbs are no longer where you planted them, you probably have voles.
Both pine voles (Microtus pinetorum) and meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) are responsible for winter damage to trees and shrubs. Pine voles are especially fond of root tissue and over a winter can chew and destroy the entire root system of a small tree. Meadow voles prefer feeding on the bark at or near ground level often girdling the tree and causing it to decline and eventually die.
Moles tunnel through the soil creating raised mounds in your gardens and lawn. Their main prey is earthworms but they devour grubs and insects as well. Since moles are carnivores not herbivores, they generally are not responsible for damage to plants. In fact on the bright side, they are often eating grubs and insects that you would consider pests in your garden! However, the mounds and tunnels they create in the lawn and garden are unsightly and annoying. These tunnels are also sometimes used by voles as a superhighway to delicious plant roots!
Moles and voles can be difficult to get rid of and some say the only way is to trap them. Many of our gardening friends have had success with certain repellents such as:
These repellents are biodegradable and safe to use around children and pets when used according to label directions.
One of our radio listeners called in to say that she has had great success in ridding her yard of moles with a unique and inexpensive technique.
She found that filling the openings of the mole tunnels with used kitty litter caused the moles to completely move away. She did this at the beginning of the summer, reapplied one time, and never had a problem after that! For those of us that have indoor cats, it certainly is worth a try. Our listener, Betty, from New Jersey swears by it! I bet it would work for voles as well. I noticed some vole holes in my front garden so I'm going to try it. I'll let you know if it works for me!
Click here for some tips on protecting your trees (including fruit trees) from vole damage.
Mice (and voles, too) can become a problem for overwintering plants like tropicals or even potted trees and shrubs that you just didn't get a chance to plant before winter set in. Sometimes these pesky rodents can sneak into the garage or shed where your plants are overwintering and cause damage to bark and roots.
A great solution to this problem is Bonide Mouse Magic. This all natural mouse repellent is very effective and easy to use. Mouse Magic comes in long-lasting "place packets" and is safe to use around children and pets.