Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Who ate the Hostas?


Many years ago a woman contacted me through my newspaper column to say someone was stealing the hostas from her backyard. It occurred to me that she was living in a twilight zone, for who would sneak in and dig up the hostas? Fast forward to the present, and I think I could point a finger at the culprit. A couple of weeks ago I attended the Ontario Hosta Society forum to hear a couple of knowledgeable guest speakers from the US on hybridizing and critter problems.
There are moles and voles that invade our yards in search of food, but which is which? Let's look at moles first.
 web source
Moles are about 7 inches long with distinct paddle shaped feet and long claws. They live underground and can tunnel up to 18 feet in one hour leaving mounds of soil on the surface called mole hills.
Mole damage as seen at the home of fellow blogger Pam Gordon and graciously shared. From all the digging and tunnelling, voles have voracious appetites and a 5 oz mole can consume 50 pounds of insects and worms a year. Did you notice they are protein eaters?
The best way to control them is with sonic noise emitters that can cover an area of 1,000 sq. yards and drive them off. Apparently juicy fruit gum doesn't work and and I cannot publicly (legally) recommend a remedy with products found in the home. Once they leave, pack in the tunnels and reseed with grass.
web source
Now we come to a rodent that is 3-4 inches long with a stocky body, short legs and short tail. Similar to a mouse in appearance but the short tail and chubby appearance gives them away as voles. They eat a wide variety of plants, bulbs, grasses and occasionally bark, snails and carrion. Hmm, mostly vegetarian!
Voles chew travel tunnels (about the size of a garden hose) across the surface of turf, leaving the clippings on the ground as they go. They especially love tulips and are attracted to bone meal that gardeners use when digging in new plants. (that's me!)
Back to the lecture on dealing with voles at the Hosta Society; I learned a new trick to outwit these critters. A true hosta lover can have upwards of 500 plants and spend a lot of money for one rare hosta. One of the lecturers did her homework and shared with us that voles do not travel in soil any deeper than 10 inches, and they don't climb. She dug up her whole collection and enclosed them in bottomless wire cages she constructed out of hardware cloth. The cages were assembled to maintain the 10 inch buried depth with a couple of inches protruding above which will eventually be covered by the leaves. Baited mouse traps can also be used but be careful if children and pets are in the yard.
A couple of years ago my spring garden clean up revealed an astilbe that was looking rather odd and I realized it didn't have a single root attached to it any more. And the woman I first mentioned, the voles likely ate the roots of her hostas over winter and there was nothing left in spring to emerge.
Have you had to deal with moles or voles in your garden? I'd love to have you share your experience and any tried and true methods of control in the comment section.
I'm linking with the Cottage Garden Party hosted by Tracie at Fishtail Cottage.

29 comments:

  1. I've never seen a vole, and from your picture they look kind of cute! But nasty to plants! We have moles and fight them regularly. Last year when I was digging in my compost pile (turning it, and looking for compost that was done) I found one. Also the garden cats will occasionally get a mole, as well as mice. A very good article. While we gardeners welcome SOME wildlife to the garden, these two we could do without! (And we could also do without snakes! My mind is fixated on those as they seem to like my garden and they're always startling me!) At least we have no venomous ones in our area. :)
    Hugs, Beth

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  2. I'm rather fond of moles as long as they don't destabilize my veggie patch. In Victorian times stealing plants was a serious crime resulting in jail time if caught.

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  3. This was a great post Judith. Thanks for the clarification between these two critters. I forgot all about them and haven't put out he moth balls yet. I'll try that first. I haven't seen any fresh damage and actually it's on our neighbour's property but right next to ours so I'm the one who sees it! lol

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  4. Cute but destructive little critters. With all the stray cats here the moles , mice and Voles are well under control . Awesome post and photos . Thanks for sharing the info . Have a good evening !

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  5. My daughter lives in Alaska, and they had Voles in their yard. Don't really know what they did, but I know their kitties would sure hunt them down when they took them outside.

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  6. I have a vole (Seattle) so frustrating to see how much damage they can do...i'm battling them now - looking for new holes and gassing and poisoning where ever I see any activity. I think that once those darn tunnels are established - they keep telling their friends to come over! lol

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  7. Oh my goodness, never have had to worry about those critters! Yikes, they can sure do some damage. Interesting post, learn something new all the time!

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  8. thank you for the good info, almost all of it I DID NOT KNOW!! Very helpful to find info like this!

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  9. We used to get voles in VA a lot...here, we have a few moles but the hawk population seems to help mange them!...:)JP

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  10. Your pic of the mole was cute, but when I see them they freak me out in the garden. Luckily they were there years ago and they are gone now. My hostas are eaten by bunnies, they love their salad I guess. My late hubby found a mole and got rid of it very weird after he heard they like juicy fruit gum. Sadly, it kills them after eating it back in their hole. I don't like the idea of killing anything, so I hope they don't come back. My big problem is oppussums in my tree, and nobody will remove them kindly and I can't blame them unless I want to pay big bucks. So leave Oscar to his nest. Next year he will move on. I find they move nests each year, as he was in my neighbors tree last year!

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  11. I'll be looking a little more closely in my yard, but I think I've escaped having these critters around. Thanks for the informative article, Judith. Someone has been digging here and there in the garden; I had blamed squirrels but I wonder if raccoons might do so.

    Karen

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  12. Interesting post. And interesting to see a mole so close up! I wonder about deer and hosts. They seem to nibble on just about anything they can find.

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  13. It's been such a hard winter, that I wouldn't be surprised if there's more damage below the surface than normal this spring. I haven't noticed any of these tell-tales signs in the grass, but am still waiting for things to sprout out of the ground before I can be sure there's no damage. We used to love finding little black moles in our very deep window wells when I was young. It was our job to collect any animals and snakes out of the wells that had fallen in overnight (there were about 10 around our house). Moles have such velvety soft fur and they were petted quite a bit before we deposited them back in the field. Wendy x

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  14. This is a very interesting post. I have learned something new today!

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  15. Here at my house, armadillos are tearing up the yard, and in spring I have had deer munch all the hostas. My husband laughed when I told him I thought that was very rude!

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  16. Oh my, that closeup of the mole quite startled me this morning! haha No wonder they can dig so fast with those paws and nails!! The vole is kinda cute. We don't have any problems here fortunately. Interesting post Judith!

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  17. Hope to never have either. Hadn't seen photos together of the tunnels so that is something that makes a difference to see.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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  18. We have voles here. They do not seem to do a whole lot of damage, though. Old Country cat loved catching them and leaving them on the door step as a little gift. He is gone now, so hopefully the Mo cat will continue Country's good work. They do tunnel in the pasture, but we have yet to see them in the lawn. I just bought hostas to plant when the weather settles down, so now I am worried. Thank you for your good information.

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  19. Ewwww....Moles are so creepy looking. We use to have a cat that actually caught a Gopher once as it popped it's head up out of the dirt in the flower bed.

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  20. yay! thank you for sharing your post over here at Fishtail Cottage's Garden party! Sounds like we both need a cat! ps - I should have mentioned above that i tried deterrents before I plunged into a more effective control method. they just created a hole directly next to the hole I used the deterrent in. little stinkers! oxxo, tracie

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  21. Lots of voles here but I have never seen a mole - that is a lot of damage to a lawn. At least I think mine are voles they are mouse sized with a star shaped snout

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  22. We have voles here. We've seen them in the backyard before. Thankfully they didn't do any real damage and I haven't seen them in a few years now. Looks like voles and moles can do a lot of damage though! Not sure if we have moles here or not...I've never seen one (which is fine with me-ha!)

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  23. I haven't seen voles here, Judith, but the bunnies do a lot of damage. I planted some zinnia seeds and something dug them and ate them. Happy weekend gardening!

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  24. Hi Judith, what a great post filled with the info we all need who have trouble with these critters. We see them here too in Texas and my hubby works on controlling them pretty well, but I am going to have him read your post later when he is home. I know he will enjoy your great info.
    Our squirrels do a lot of damage in the yard too digging holes and in flower pots. This year however, they have not touched the pots. Wonder why last year they did in the summer and fall and not now. Did they know a bad winter was coming??

    Thanks for sharing all your knowledge and for stopping by too.
    Have a great weekend!!
    Hugs

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  25. My area is having a lot of trouble with moles. Shoot! I was really hoping the gum worked. LOL. Those sonic things really work? Now I am truly shocked.

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  26. Please don't bait. In the time it takes for the baited animal to bleed out, it can be eaten by another animal and poison them too.

    Moles are very attracted to grubs under the sod and will move on when they are eaten. ... Michelle

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  27. Now I know where my tulips went....my voles love crocus or just about anything...we are trying solar deterrents that emit a vibration...it seems to have worked so far in 2 areas.

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  28. Holy smokes, Judith. I think we might have had one of these in our yard, picking up fallen bird seeds. I am going to keep my eye out (no damage like that in the lawn yet). So glad you made this post.

    Diane

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  29. I planted some sort of flower .. in the alyssum family maybe.. now I will go crazy trying to remember! It had a tall stem with a globe like flower and it seemed to work - no voles. We had a garden cat at the time so I am not sure who or what to credit.

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Thanks for visiting my blog. I love to receive comments yet know there are those who only have time for a quick peek.
Judith

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