Prevent winter damage from moles and voles

Source: Ray Tackett, UK extension horticulture agent         

A common misconception is that moles and voles, those burrowing pests that destroy our lawns and gardens, take a break in the winter to hibernate.  Nothing is further from the truth.  In winter, moles and voles simply dig deeper to escape the cold, while continuing to eat with a ravenous appetite.  We tend not to go out as much in the winter, therefore we do not see their signature tunnels, hills and holes, which are occasionally covered by snow.  You can avoid surprises in your lawn this spring by preventing winter damage with a few precautionary measures.

You can purchase traps, repellents and baits to help control mole problems. If you used mole repellents during the summer, continue to use them into winter. Stopping the use of repellents can leave your lawn and garden vulnerable to mole activity. If you see signs of damage in the winter, you should begin repellent applications immediately.

The effectiveness of repellents for voles, which are sometimes called meadow mice, are not proven.  When dealing with only a few voles, trapping might be the best option. Use ordinary mousetraps baited with peanut butter or apple. The traps must be placed in the runs and then covered with boards to be effective.

If you are unsure about mole and vole signs or control measures, you can seek professional help from a trusted pest control company.  A pest control professional will notice signs of mole and vole activity and can apply the any necessary treatments throughout the year if a problem is found.

Next fall, take proactive measures to prevent moles and voles as winter approaches. Avoid overwatering your garden or lawn with sprinklers and irrigation, which makes the soil moist and loose. Wet soil makes it easier for the moles and voles to move around, while providing moles with an abundance of their main food source, earthworms and grubs.  Another preventive measure is not to mulch too early in the fall.  Mulch is a great way to protect plants from plummeting temperatures and helps retain moisture, but it also provides attractive homes for voles. Wait to mulch until a couple of weeks after the first frost. It might convince a vole to take cover for the winter someplace else.  Physical barriers in your beds and around trees can protect them from mole and vole damage as well. 

Contact (YOUR COUNTY) office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service for information on mole and vole winter damage.   

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