Metro-East Living

Here’s how to get rid of those pesky voles

Prairie vole
Prairie vole

Q: I am being invaded by voles as I can see the runs in the grass areas and also found small tunnels. They are eating a lot of my spring vegetables and becoming a big problem. Give me some ideas how to get rid of them.

L.S. of Marissa

A: There are two different species of voles that can be found in our area. One is called the prairie meadow mouse or prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) and the other is the pine mouse (Microtus pinetorum), and its common name is misleading as it is found mainly in deciduous woods habitat or on the edge. The prairie vole is larger as it grows up to 7-inches long and is usually the more damaging of the two. Both species are active day and night, eating about every four hours with most of the damage coming at the beginning of the 4-hour period.

Female prairie voles can reproduce as early as 25 days of age, but males mature at five weeks, which keeps them from mating with litter mates. These voles are also one of the first animals to be infected with ticks for the ticks’ first blood sucking. So if you find a dead vole, you’ll want to use gloves to pick them up to dispose of them as they are also infected with mites, lice, fleas, flukes, and tapeworms.

In experimentation, one hundred voles per acre can eat three hundred pounds of alfalfa hay and waste twice that much. Remember to wrap your young trees with one-quarter inch of hardware cloth during the winter months, especially if we experience snow as they can girdle the bark completely around the base of these trees and you will not see them if the snow is deep enough.

For control I suggest a cat for the No. 1 control for starters because they will even show you their hunting skills by placing the dead critter near your door. Snap traps can also be used, and peanut butter and rolled oats are great for bait. Cut the grass lower over the runs to encourage owls and hawks as predators. Cinders work well if placed into the entrances of the tunnels. If you have a small garden or flower area you can enclose this area with hardware cloth by placing it underground for about eight inches and 12 inches above ground as they are not great climbers. Moth balls can be placed in their tunnels as a deterrent, but this could just move them to a different area of your property.

▪  A reader sent a note last week indicating that the farmers spraying herbicides could have caused the problem with the damage to the oak trees in Highland. However, usually the herbicides used by farmers produce a different effect on the trees as they would suddenly turn brown within a few days to a week after the application. The curl and the puckering of the leaf was the main symptom, indicating the disease of oak anthracnose.

Things to do this week

  • Make sure to check germinating weeds and eliminate them before they are large enough to produce seeds.
  • Check your plants for diseases and insect problems for control before this becomes enough to kill or damage the plants so that no recovery can begin