Voles are a type of rodent that is often found in homes and gardens. They can be challenging to control because they can quickly breed and multiply, but there are some things you can do to keep them from eating your plants. Voles spend most of their lives underground in tunnels and burrow systems. They also create surface runways to travel and eat.
What are voles? Voles are small rodents that live in Europe, Asia, and North America. They are often confused with moles, but they are different animals. Meadow mice are a common species of vole commonly found in gardens. They are omnivorous but tend to feast on plant bulbs, especially those that grow in the ground. They also eat the bark of tree trunks and the roots of grasses and plants. They are particularly destructive when living in yards. Their burrowing tunnels are 2 inches wide and crisscross the yard in underground runs. They create these runways by feeding on the roots of plants and grasses.
Voles are semifossorial rodents that live in a variety of habitats. They are most commonly found in moist, dense ground cover like prairies and marshy grasslands. They spend most of their time underground in complex burrow systems as part of a colony. Their home ranges typically occupy at most 1/4 acre. Well-traveled aboveground runways connect burrow openings. Fresh clippings of green grass and greenish-colored droppings about 3/16 inch long in the runways and near burrow openings are evidence of vole presence.
Voles are omnivorous, eating a wide variety of foods. They eat grass, plants, fruits, seeds, and carrion. They can also eat the root and bulbs of plants, which can cause significant damage to crops and gardens. This is why modern pest control measures are often used to keep these sneaky rodents from ruining farms and gardens. Voles are a common problem in the United States and Canada. These tiny rodents chomp down on many crop plants’ roots, bulbs, and stems.
Voles can have extremely high numbers, sometimes called population “irruptions.” These unpredictable cycles depend on several factors, including food quality, climate, predation, physiological stress, and genetics. Most voles are herbivorous and feed on various plants, including grasses, wildflowers or forbs, and seeds or tubers. In summer and fall, they also eat the bark of young woody plants. Females can give birth to several litters of young each year. Their lifespans are short, with most individuals dying in 12 months or less.
Voles can cause extensive damage to lawns, gardens, and shrubs. They can chew through bark, tunnel under the soil, and eat plant roots and bulbs. Controlling voles begins with a clean yard, weed-free garden, and regularly mowed lawn. Mowing and removing heavy mulch can discourage voles from using the yard as a nesting site. Integrated pest management approaches such as habitat modification also help to control vole problems. These methods include eliminating weeds, minimizing litter in and around crops and cultivated areas, and removing crushed stone from the yard. Trapping, baiting, and repelling are also options for controlling voles. Bait traps can be placed along runways and near exit holes.