Vole Wars

December 2, 2008 | By | Comments (15)

Hi Steve. Been loving your Grumpy blog. I read your article on voles but I was wondering if there are certain plants that they are more attracted to…or do they just eat anything?

I planted some pink and red coreposis on the bank out front. Looking good one day…hmmm…brown….looking closely…holes…no plants. Watered them faithfully every morning before 6 am. My water bill equals to one year of the Iraq war. Voles have in time eaten my entire “patch” of hosta…any bulb other than daffodils…and one year ate my monkey grass one little clump at a time. I have an oleander plant, but they have no taste for it. Shame.

Along with half the squirrel population of west Tennessee, I must have ever danged vole that lives here too. If I can’t interest you in a Rocky replacement, how about a few little innocent voles to get rid of some of those pesky plants? I could probably supply most of Alabama and Georgia. Would appreciate your answer on this.

Jean Sherrill

Grumpy’s insightful response — The easy answer is that voles prefer any plant you consider valuable and/or irreplaceable. Thus, they will always eat your hostas, toad lilies, plants with fleshy, juicy stems, and just about any bulb, corm, or tuber besides narcissus (which poisons the little slobs). The Grump appreciates your offer to ship him boxes of voles for Christmas dinner, but frankly they’re so small it takes forever to prepare them. Hmm….maybe I could do something like hot wings.

Sure-Fire Control Methods
Voles are related to lemmings (and thus perfect for lemming-meringue pie). Like lemmings,their populations explode suddenly and then fortunately die off. Cats are one reason. Ketchup, my cat, is an expert vole-hunter (Ever try voles with Ketchup? Mmm…sounds delish.)

Other than cats, two things I’ve used to limit vole damage is to plant susceptible plants inside cages of hardware cloth and to scrape way any mulch from the base of the plant. Voles love to burrow underneath the mulch where they can’t bee seen by predators.

What Doesn’t Work                                                                                                                                Over the years, I’ve tried poison peanuts (they don’t look like peanuts), animal repellent, vole traps, and spreading gravel around. None of these has had any appreciable effect on the vole population or the damage they do. Have they worked for any of you? Grumpy

COMMENTS

  1. Nikki Smith

    Hi Grumpy Gardener, I’m glad to see that you suggest more humane ways to eliminate vole problems. Interesting that in your experience traps and poisons don’t really work. I read a story in the Washington Post recommending (death)traps to get rid of the rodents, and I feel like that almost negates the whole purpose of gardening. Or is that just me?
    http://www.whgmag.com/index.php/394-are-you-smarter-than-a-mouse

    December 3, 2008 at 1:02 pm
  2. Nikki Smith

    Hi Grumpy Gardener, I’m glad to see that you suggest more humane ways to eliminate vole problems. Interesting that in your experience traps and poisons don’t really work. I read a story in the Washington Post recommending (death)traps to get rid of the rodents, and I feel like that almost negates the whole purpose of gardening. Or is that just me?
    http://www.whgmag.com/index.php/394-are-you-smarter-than-a-mouse

    December 3, 2008 at 1:07 pm
  3. Nikki Smith

    PS. It was not my intention to double comment up there. … Sorry. :(

    December 3, 2008 at 1:09 pm
  4. Grumpy Gardener

    What IS the whole purpose of gardening? I sure as heck don’t know.

    December 3, 2008 at 1:17 pm
  5. Pete

    On serious side (sorry), if you don’t count on gigantic hostas, etc., you can carve out the bottom of the container in which they are purchased and plant the container and all. I typically lose 10 to 15 plants a year to voles and chipmunks and although the above does not totally prevent it, it does defer “dinner’ for, in some cases, as much as 5 years.
    All suggestions on this problem are appreciated.
    Pete

    February 28, 2009 at 5:59 pm
  6. Grumpy Gardener

    That’s a good idea, Pete. However, I think a more permanent solution is to plant plastic hostas. Some clever entrepreneur needs to start working on this.

    March 1, 2009 at 10:01 am
  7. Pam

    I gave up trying to dispose of the rodents. Expensive Hosta now go in large pots. As I was told, If you live in the woods….you will have voles.

    March 25, 2009 at 12:33 am
  8. Pamela

    Hosta put in pots and then in the ground……Ugly
    Hosta in wire baskets…..doesn’t work
    Gravel…expensive, doesn’t work
    Hosta in large beautiful pots….PRICELESS

    April 23, 2009 at 1:24 am
  9. Grumpy Gardener

    Pamela,
    You are correct and have shamed the Grump for his oversight. Hostas do indeed make great container plants and this way the voles can’t touch them.

    April 23, 2009 at 3:54 pm
  10. Marlice Bryant

    I don’t care about being humane to voles. They aren’t humane to my lovely yard. Last year I discovered voles and tried traps, baskets etc but finally used D-con mixed with cheap peanut butter. Used consistently it got rid of the little devils and by summer’s end I had no vole activity. This spring there are a few holes and I’ve started with the D-con and peanut butter again. Try it—-it works. I excavated each hole and put the savory pieces inside. The voles sort of fluffed up the dirt. I kept re-doing it daily and finally they stopped any activity!!!!

    April 29, 2009 at 12:11 am
  11. Grumpy Gardener

    Wait until PETA hears about this. Poisoning voles with peanut butter! What next? Jelly?

    April 29, 2009 at 8:41 am
  12. jshaw

    Thanks for the peanut butter tip. I have been trying different methods for over a year. Peanut butter is a smart suggestion! I put out bait specifically made for voles, and the squirrels would dig it up and get poisoned. It worked well on the voles, undesired casualties. It was also 25 dollars a treatment. Next week when I put my 12oz of d-con in the ground I will use peanut butter, thanks.

    June 22, 2009 at 5:42 pm
  13. Jim

    My hostas start out large but getg smaller each year. Is this the work of voles or chipmunks?

    September 10, 2009 at 11:00 pm
  14. Grumpy Gardener aka His Excellency

    It could be voles chewing on them, but it could also be due to drought, poor soil, or root competition from nearby trees and shrubs.

    September 11, 2009 at 5:00 pm
  15. Janet G.

    Unfortunately, your flippant use of poisons not only kills voles but any other wild creatures that may happen upon them.Baby birds spend a couple weeks on the ground when they fledge and could be killed by your peanuts. Woodpeckers love peanut butter suet and hop around on the ground eating bits of food. You are likely poisoning them too whether you want to accept that or not. Putting value on a stupid plant above the lives of wildlife and ignoring the unseen effects of toxins in the ground and environment certainly is not what I would consider an acceptable way to deal with any pest regardless of how much you love your beloved hosta. It always floors me that humans enter into an already established locale, teeming with native flora and fauna, then introduce plant species that draw wildlife, but are put out and furious when wildlife come and eat it. Just get rid of the plants they eat and replace them with stuff they don’t. There are plenty of lovely plants that voles don’t eat.

    May 1, 2013 at 1:42 pm