It is never exciting to have pests in your yard. And when it is voles, you need to really get going to find some method in order to drive them away from your garden. Voles are the creatures that can cause maximum and permanent damage to your yard by consuming everything they find on their way. Not only this, they multiply their population at a rapid rate, thereby, leading you to a condition that might end your premises with so many voles that it takes many years to get rid of them.
You may get some chemical pesticides or rodenticides from the stores to get rid of them. Or, if you are someone who prefers organic farming, here are some solutions to help you out to get rid of the voles. But, before beginning with the battle, let’s know more about our enemy.
What is a Vole?
Voles are basically the mammals who belong to the class of rodents. Often referred to as Field Mouse or Meadow Mouse, voles appear quite similar to mice, and are usually confused as moles (1, 2). The mature voles are about 5 to 8 inches long and own a stocky body, short furry tail, and short legs. They have broader faces and are generally found in brown or gray color. Voles have a short average lifespan of 2 to 16 months (3). There are as many as 155 species of the voles around the globe. They are generally found in the areas that fall in North America and Australia.
Voles can be too damaging to your gardens, and they feed on the vegetation of your plants and barks of certain trees. They generally form runways, which are the the holes starting from the ground surface that go deep into the earth’s crust. This leads to the displacement of the grass and vegetation in the area. A vole generally digs in order to form space beneath the plant that it wishes to consume. This space is large enough to accommodate itself while it starts eating up the roots of the plant. They generally prefer to form these large burrows and runways in the area that is rich in vegetation.
They breed at a rapid rate. A female vole can give birth to as many as 10 young voles 10 times in a year. These young ones are capable of giving birth to more of their kind within a span of two months or sixty days. Except for the full moon night, voles are active during the day as well as night. This less activity on the full moon night is due to the fact that they are more visible to the predators at this point. Hence, they prefer to hide.
What do they Feed On?
Voles can consume anything that falls on their way. Their favorite diet includes insects, slugs, snails, roots, bark, seeds, and bulbs. They often form burrows through the yards looking for the food and end up destroying a plant completely, beginning from its roots. They do not hibernate, and consume an omnivorous diet throughout the various seasons in a year.
What Damage can They Cause to Your Yard?
Voles can be extremely hazardous for your dream of having an enrapturing landscape. They cause permanent damage to the vegetation in your garden and leave the soil entirely ruined with the burrows and the tunnels. You might wake up one day to realize that many of your valuable plants have turned into the ashes while you saw them blooming the previous day. Warning signs of voles’ attack include dying and decaying plants for no obvious reasons such that the damage worsens every day. You can look for the presence of small gnawing marks around the plants to identify the presence of voles.
How to Get Rid of Voles?
If you are wondering how to get rid of the voles naturally so that you do not worsen the damage already done to your garden, here are some of the exemplary ways to get the job done.
The first one in this series of voles repellents is one of our favorite kitchen ingredients, garlic. Garlic has potent properties that make it a solid option for the vole control (4, 5). With an easy method of implementation, this is an environment-friendly and effective measure that has long-lasting effects and does not hit hard in the pocket. Moreover, it is a safe remedy for the houses that have pets and kids. Garlic has a strong smell, which is hated by the rodents such as voles. You can choose the method of using garlic as per your convenience. Some of the prominent ones include the following.
The simplest method to use garlic for repelling voles is to place a clove of garlic around the plants that are more subject to the damage caused by the voles. For the best actions, you can also choose to place three-four cloves instead.
Another way can be to plant some rows of garlic plants in your garden, such that the rows are positioned near the plants that face the highest risk of being attacked by the voles. Going crazy with the smell of garlic plants, voles will not dare come close to the other plants in its vicinity.
Simply separate some cloves of garlic and allow them to dry in the sunlight. Once dried, grind them in a coffee grinder to obtain a fine powder. You can either sprinkle this powder directly on the plants and soil beneath them, or you can also combine this powder with some water in the spray bottle, which can be mixed well and sprinkled all around.
2) Wire Meshes
Wire meshes can prove to be a fruitful solution if you want to stop the voles from reaching to the roots of the plants in your vicinity (6). It is one of the most preferred methods used by the people who want to get rid of the voles in a way that they do not pose any threat to their lives. This process is an eco-friendly method and does not cause any harm to the pets. Moreover, it stays effective for a longer duration of time. The wire meshes are generally made of superior quality of metal which is hard for the voles to cut. This is why they are not able to go through them. Wire mesh can be simply placed around the garden, or if you can give in more efforts, you can apply the wire meshes around each plant/ bulbs or the flower beds before you plant them. In case, you can consider reshaping your landscape, you can also implement this method.
This would keep the voles away from the plant and hence protect them from the damage. Once the voles are short of the vegetation to feed on, they would go away from the area in search of favorable conditions. Even though this method may require too much of the efforts during the initial phase of implementation, the results are long-term and do not involve any more expenses.
3) Vole Traps
Even though it may not be an ideal solution, vole traps work wonders for controlling the vole population in its initial phase (7). While it is a low-cost method, it also does the work efficiently if you apply your wits well. There are custom-made vole traps that are available in the market. You can either buy these traps from the market or you can make one of these yourself at home from the instructions given by Town & Country Gardens. You can either place these traps in your garden or bury them in the ground, specifically the burrows. You can lure them with a bait inside the trap. Once they enter it looking for the bait, the trap would close and would not allow them to escape. Once done, you can take the trap and let them out far away from your garden.
4) Castor Oil Treatment
Castor oil is extracted from the seeds of Castor bean plant. A Castor oil treatment can work wonderfully well to get your garden free of voles (8). Rodents are very sensitive to certain smells, and Castor oil is one of them. This is what contributes to the efficacy of Castor oil to drive out the voles from your garden. Even though this method does not serve the long-term purpose, it can be re-applied after a certain time interval. Castor oil is an astounding voles repellent if you apply it frequently and generously. All you have to do is grab a bottle of Castor oil and apply the oil generously onto the required area.
A spray using Castor oil can also be prepared for the same purpose. Take a spray bottle and fill it with 1-2 oz of Castor oil. Add the same amount of liquid detergent to it and fill the remaining volume with water. Close the opening and shake the bottle well to mix the ingredients. Once done, use it to sprinkle in the garden.
5) Noise and Vibrations
The noise and vibrations are very disturbing to the voles (9). Hence, these can also be a potent vole repellent. You can place a radio or a speaker beneath the ground, that is, around the areas where the voles have dug their tunnel. To opt for an easy solution, you can also try placing an open bottle in the ground such that its top sticks out. The wind would make a noise while it blows through the top of the bottle. This noise is something hated by the voles, hence, this will cause them to go away from the place.
You can also use vibration for the same purpose. You can create vibrations by placing the wind spinners or windmills near the holes. Once they realize the vibrations, they run away from the premises to ignore them.
6) Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper has been in use for its therapeutic effects since ages and is also utilized as a taste booster in various dishes. This spicy and hot ingredient derives its characteristics from the presence of a compound known as capsaicin (10). Cayenne pepper also finds its application as an effective voles repellent, thanks to capsaicin again, which is very irritating to the various pests, and voles are one of such organisms (11). This type of pepper is considered as one of the hottest peppers amongst the alternatives. There are various methods, using which, cayenne pepper can be applied if you are wondering how to get rid of voles in the yard. Start with letting some cayenne pepper to rest in the bright sun so that it loses all the moisture. Once it has dried well, crush it to form a fine powder. You can use this powder directly onto the area that is generally affected by the voles, specifically at the entrance of each vole burrow.
The other thing that we can do it is take a spray bottle and fill it with water. Add a few teaspoons of powdered cayenne pepper to it and stir the ingredients well in order to mix. Once you get a homogeneous solution, spray the mixture on the hole openings and other areas where you frequently notice the voles.
You can also prepare a rodenticide with cayenne pepper. Mix the powdered cayenne pepper, vegetable oil, garlic paste or puree, and water in a spray bottle, and shake the bottle well after closing. This would allow the ingredients to mix well. Once you obtain a homogeneous solution, spray it onto the required portion of land.
While using cayenne pepper as a method to drive out the voles, ensure that you maintain a safe process by wearing gloves and keeping your eyes covered as it may also irritate you. Along with this, make sure that the pets and children in your home stay away as it may be harmful to them as well.
7) Predators Urine
Well, who would love to willingly surrender themselves to someone who feeds on the organisms of their species? As soon as we sense such organisms around, we tend to run away or probably hide, and when this becomes a regular issue, we finally end up changing our location, no matter how favorable the current one seems to be. Well, this tendency of living beings can be beneficial for us as well, especially to drive out the voles from our gardens.
We can create an illusion of the presence of predators such as cats simply by their urine. This method of deterring the pests such as voles has been one of the most recommended ones by the environmental scientists (12). It basically leverages the benefits of the fact that the behavior of animals is determined by the smell. Spraying the urine of the predators such as cats, fox, coyote, etc. fools them to think that they have entered an area, which has other organisms that are dangerous for their lives. This encourages them to move away and build their burrow somewhere else.
8) Change The Plants
Modifying the garden a little to change the habitat of the voles is considered as one of the most preferred methods of controlling the increasing number of voles in the garden. The major factors that contribute to its popularity include the price, which is zero, and secondly, it poses no threats to the environment and other organisms in the surrounding. The significant food sources that the voles feed on are the roots and stems of the grass and other things that generally cover the ground.
Therefore, cutting on everything that supplies them with food, eventually, would cause them to move away from the premises. Simply removing the weeds, ground cover, and litter will get the job done. Frequent mowings ensure that the ground cover maintains a height of 3 to 6 inches, and hence, reduce the amount of food source and cover for the voles. This makes them more exposed to the predators.
If you are looking for effective solutions on how to get rid of voles in the garden that is full of valuable trees, or in other words, you want to keep your trees safe from the voles, you can simply clear off the mulch up to 2 feet below the trees. You can also form vegetation-free zones that generally stretch up to 2 feet below the tree canopies starting from the trunk. This would form unfavorable conditions for the voles to survive by cutting off the food supply and stop the damage.
You can also create a vegetation-free zone by the application of herbicides or place a layer of gravel or crushed stones below. This layer can extend up 3 to 4 inches below the trunk. Also, make sure that you do not allow the pruning waste, dead and decayed leaves, and such things to accumulate around the bases of plants and trees (13).
Even though voles eat whichever type of vegetation they come across, there are some of the plants that the voles refrain from getting close to. This hatred of voles against some of the plants can be beneficial for us. We can simply have some of them in our garden, spread over a certain area of land periodically. Once the voles would come across these plants, they would refrain from entering in that particular area of the ground and would run away One of these plants is Hellebore, which is named after the tribe of Helleboreae. This is the plant that not only keeps the voles away but also beautifies your garden with the flowers of vibrant colors that it bears. Voles are not fond of the roots and leaves of these plants as they are toxic for the voles, and this is why they avoid entering the premises that have them planted. You must, however, make sure that you handle the hellebore plant well as it is also toxic to the humans and other un-targeted wildlife (14).
The next suggestion in our list of voles repellent is a common kitchen ingredient, capsicum. This inevitable part of our delicious recipes can also help you if you are looking for some sure-shot solutions to the question, “how to get rid of the voles naturally?” The fruit obtained from the capsicum plants is rich in the capsaicin content. This is the compound that comes under the category of lipophilic compounds, due to which, the various varieties of capsicum exhibit a strong burning sensation (15). While the amount of this compound may vary according to the genetic and environmental challenges, all the types of capsicum contain capsaicin except for the bell peppers. This compound of capsicum also works wonders to drive the voles out from the garden (16, 17). This is why capsicum can serve you wonderfully if you want to repel the voles without killing them.
Allow some capsicum to dry in the bright sunlight. Once done, crush it to form a fine powder. This fine powder can be either sprinkled directly on the soil of the garden or mixed in some water and then sprayed. Once the voles experience the hot and burning sensation, they would right away move far from the place looking for relief.
11) Black Pepper
Black pepper is another remedy that can serve as one of the effective voles deterrents. This is another instance where capsaicin has proved its effectivity for getting rid of the voles. The capsaicin-rich black pepper has the same effect on the voles as the other varieties of peppers (18). You can also use essential oil of black pepper for the same purpose. A study of various volatile substances was conducted, and the results deduced from it indicated that the essential oil obtained from the black pepper could efficiently deter the voles from the garden (19).
The administration of black pepper or its oil is similar to the way we apply the cayenne pepper or capsicum to deter the voles. Simply crush them and either sprinkle directly or mix them in water to prepare a spray.
12) Chewing Gum
While it serves as an amazing mouth freshener, chewing gum can also be effective to restore the beauty of your garden by helping you to get rid of the voles (20). This basically allures the voles present in the premises due to its fruity smell. When the voles happen to consume it, it blocks their internal organs. This is a great solution if you are wondering how to kill the voles.
Simply place some chewing gums at certain points in your garden, probably at the opening of their holes, and see the magic.
13) Predators for Rescue
This solution suggests you to invite predators to your gardens, or maybe adopt a few (21). While this solution may not reduce the damage that has been done already, it is an amazing solution to drive the pests away. This method also serves as a preventive measure, which would keep the voles away from the garden in future. Also, this method will not prove efficacious if there are too many voles in your garden.
The first option that you can look up to is cats. The fable of hatred feeling shared by the cats and mice against each other has been famous since ages. This enemity can also serve you amazingly to get rid of the field mice or the meadow mice as well. You can simply get a cat from the pet market for this.
In addition to cats, we also have various birds, including owls and hawks, which feed on the voles. You can also customize the habitat such that various birds get attracted to your garden. These changes may include erecting the perching poles near the locations that generally have the vole activity or probably forming some nest boxes for owls and hawks to attract them to your garden.
Voles have other predators as well, which include Jack Russel Terrier dogs. These ratting dogs are considered as superb vole hunters. However, you must be aware that they have a tendency of digging up the ground.
14) Packed Snow
Packing the snow tight around the grass area will help in colder areas. Studies have suggested that voles do not have the capacity to go over the tightly-packed snow or ice. This also prevents them from forming burrows there. This is how packed snow proves to be a fruitful solution for obstructing the movement of the voles between the areas having grass and the gardens (22). But remember, this remedy will only work if you have cold climate and snow for most part of the year.
15) Pine Needle Oil and Vegetable Oil
A study was conducted by some of the ace researchers where they coated the apples with the essential oil of pine needle. This was followed by comparing the effectivity of various oils together to test their ability for getting rid of the voles. It was concluded from the individual studies that the field mice refrained from consuming the raw apples that were coated by the pine needle oil. Also, it was deduced from the comparative study that the application of vegetable oil is more effective than the pine needle oil. The compounds such as monoterpenes, alpha and beta-pinene, and myrcene are present in the essential oils. This is what contributes to their deterring capability (23).
You can simply spray some pine needle oil or the vegetable oil onto the area hit by the voles to experience some amazing effects. However, you need to couple the pine needle oil with another repellent, owing to the fact that even though voles refrain from consuming the things that are coated with the pine needle oil, they do not impose it as a mandatory rule on themselves. In other words, in case, the pine-needle oil coated stuff is the only option they have in the vicinity, they would consume it to sustain themselves.
Flooding is another measure that can help you for getting relief from the voles. You can begin by flood irrigating the field. The results of studies have concluded that the flood irrigation is pretty effective in order to get rid of the voles (24). Make sure that while watering the field, you specifically turn your hose to the burrow openings. While the field is full of water, more water in their burrows will only bring them out on the open land. You can then apply proper rodenticide or get your pets like cats and dogs to the action and kill them. If you do not combine this method with another one, you might end up getting voles attacking your garden again. Therefore, while you employ flood irrigation to bring them out, you have to employ an additional remedy to kill them, thus, serving you with long-term benefits.
Some More Possibly Effective Methods
17) Cultivate the Soil in your Garden
Well, this is a way that would not only help you kill the voles but will also help you to keep them away from your garden for a longer duration. However, you’ll need to repeat it once in a few days for better results. Cultivation helps you reach deeper into the soil, thus, destroying the tunnels and burrows made by the voles. It also helps you to kill the pests that are dwelling underneath the soil in your garden.
This natural remedy to get rid of the voles makes use of the fact that the voles do not like to dig the ground that has gravels as it is very difficult for them to do so. This is the reason you can prepare a layer of gravels in the ground, which is often hit by the voles. The ratio of the soil to gravels should be close to 1:4, that is, for every part of the land, you need 25% of gravels against the entire soil. The thickness of the gravel layer depends upon the plants to be protected.
While for grass, you will need a layer as thick as 5-10 centimeters, for the bigger plants or the trees, you’ll require twice or thrice of this. This method of deterring the voles provide you added benefits of making your soil looser, thus, improving the drainage. This method provides long-term benefits if applied strategically, irrespective of the area of land.
Tips to Keep the Voles Away
While it’s great to fight the problem, what sounds more amazing is not allowing it to happen in the first place. Instead of going through a terrible sight of garden destruction, it would be more intelligent to keep your precious plants protected from the attack of voles sicne the very beginning. Here are some tips to help you.
- Make sure you clean your garden every once in a while. Mulch should be no deeper than an inch. Mow the weedy portion, and do not allow the landscape fabrics to stay in the garden for long. Maintain proper spacing between the plants to make sure that the vegetation cover is not beyond the limits.
- Adopt some pets in your house. The pet addition to the family ensures that the voles and other pests are killed in the initial period of their infestation itself. Also, once they pee in your garden (which they obviously will,) it would frighten the pests such as voles who would refrain from entering the garden owing to fear.
- Add some vole-repelling plants to the vegetation of your garden. These plants may include tulips, rosemary, and the ones we discussed previously. This would ensure that voles remain far away from your yard.
- Take a walk around your garden once in a few days, at least once in a month. This would help you analyze the problem and cope up with them in time. After all, it is intelligent to get through one or two vole burrows rather than letting your entire garden suffer. Also, if there are voles in your garden, they would dig tunnels beneath the ground and make the soil spongy. This can be easily felt by walking around.
- Make sure that birds remain year-round visitors to your garden. This would help you keep many of the pests away and also maintain a lively ambiance for you.
- Fence your garden. Once you apply proper fencing to your garden, the pests such as voles would find it difficult to cross the boundaries to reach inside the garden. You can also opt for setting up underground fences, which are at least two feet deep.
- Voles enjoy various things as their food like seeds, fruit trees (apples are their favorite,) garden plants, etc. In order to stop them from invading your garden, cut off all the sources that can serve them as their food. Trim off all the branches that hang down to the ground. Make sure that you do not erect bird feeders in your garden as the fallen seeds would attract the voles. Moreover, in case you have fruit trees, make sure you pick up the fallen fruits and do not allow them to decompose there. If you have evergreen trees in your garden, ensure that you remove the needles that have fallen off.
- Cultivate the soil in your garden regularly. It ensures that the runway systems of the voles are destroyed, and even the pests are killed.
- Mix about 10% of the gravels or soil perfecter in 90% of the soil. This will give them an unfavorable environment, and hence, they would not dwell in the particular area for a longer period.
- One of the major things that contribute to an increase in vole population in your garden is the presence of grubs. This would require you to remove the grubs from your garden so that the voles are not attracted inside.
- Make wire cages around the individual plants. Since the plants will not be easily accessible to the voles, they would soon go away from the premises that do not have anything for them to feed upon.
No matter how small they appear in their size, voles can cause great harm to your lovely garden, and once the population goes beyond the control, it seems impossible to get rid of them. If you don’t want to bear these grave consequences, it’s better to ensure that you do not follow any practices that attract them in the first place. In case, they have already invaded your garden, you can opt for any of the above-mentioned solutions and bid them goodbye. However, if you observe that their population is growing rapidly day by day and has gone beyond your capability to fight with them, call for professional help as soon as possible.