Why are traitors called moles?
Before you start fighting voles, you need to clearly identify the rodents as causing the damage to the garden. The vole is also called water vole, woolly mouse or earth rat. In her nest, a female gives birth to up to 25 young in three to four litters each year. The vole creates a branched system of tunnels under the earth. If you discover a mound of earth in your garden, first check whether it is actually the work of voles. A mole also piles up large piles, but unlike voles, it is subject to the Federal Species Protection Ordinance. This means that the animal may be driven away, but not caught or even killed.
If a heap of earth came from a vole, the hole is not in the middle under the heap, but is slightly offset to the side. The mound of earth often contains roots and parts of plants and is usually not as high as a molehill. Vole outlets are at least eight centimeters wide and oval in shape, while moles create smaller, round to wide-oval tunnels. Once you have clearly identified your opponents, you can use the so-called dilapidation test to determine whether the corridor is still inhabited. Expose it in several places over a length of around 30 centimeters. If the diggers are still using the burrow, they close the passage again within a few hours. Moles would not do that, they would undermine the opened area.
What do voles eat?
Voles are pure vegetarians and very picky at the same time. They don't eat everything by a long way - but still enough to cause great damage in the garden. They prefer to eat the fleshy tuber and root tissue of various plant species such as Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, celery and tulip bulbs. The delicate root bark of roses and fruit trees is also a real treat for voles.
The best time to control voles
Basically, voles can be fought all year round. However, the chances of success are greatest from autumn to spring. The reason: The animals are also active during the winter months and find less food outside of the gardening season, so that bait is better accepted. Measures taken during the summer months are therefore not very effective. The best periods for control are late autumn, when the ground is open, and early spring, before the voles begin to reproduce. Since young voles colonize new areas during the entire vegetation period, not only individual plots but as much as possible all areas of an allotment garden or a residential area are to be included in the control.
Traps, when used correctly, are the most effective way to control voles. Tried and tested fishing gear are, for example, the classic pincer trap, the Bavarian vole trap, the patented SuperCat trap or box traps such as the Sugan vole trap from Neudorff. For animal welfare reasons, you should prefer box traps, because the other models also occasionally fall victim to moles.
You have to proceed systematically with the trap method: It is best to start in a corner of the garden and equip each active corridor with one or more traps. Check your fishing gear several times a day and keep repositioning it in the same place until you run out of catch. For an average garden size of around 500 square meters, you therefore need around 20 traps to get a vole plague under control.
Tip: Voles are very sensitive to smells. Therefore only handle traps and bait with old gloves and rub new equipment thoroughly with soil. New metal traps are often covered with a thin film of oil. Wash it off with a cleaning agent that is as odorless as possible (for example, unperfumed curd soap) before you rub the traps with soil.
Suitable vole bait
Peeled carrots or pieces of celery have proven themselves as bait for vole traps. The baited and tensioned trap is placed in front of the exposed passage, after which it is closed light-tight. Basically you can set up vole traps without bait, but the catching success is higher if you attract the rodents with a treat. You can cover the hole with either a wooden board or a black bucket after setting up the trap. Since box traps only have one entrance, it is best to place two traps close to each other with entrances facing away from each other in each corridor.
Special vole baits (for example Quiritox or Vole bait Arrex) from specialist retailers poison the animals. Use is allowed, but not for everyone.
Chemical preparations are only conditionally recommended for combating voles. As already mentioned, poison wheat and other bait are only eaten in sufficient quantities by the voles in autumn and winter, when fresh food is not available.
Vole gas (e.g. DELU vole gas) is released from carbide lumps as soon as they react with the moisture in the soil. It does not kill the rodents, but drives them away with its smell. The effect is limited on sandy soil because the gas escapes from the duct system through the soil pores. In this case, environmentally friendly smoking agents (for example vole gas from Neudorff) based on castor oil are more efficient.
Use of poison gas against voles
Special fumigation devices are used in organic farming: By burning charcoal, they produce toxic carbon monoxide, which is fed into the rodent ducts via hoses. Such elaborate methods are not practicable in the normal home garden. Some fruit growers poison the voles in a similar way with the exhaust gases of their vehicles. This method is of course illegal because the combustion residue from the fuel contaminates the ground.
Home remedies for voles
Plant doctor René Wadas explains in an interview how voles can be combated in the garden
Video and editing: CreativeUnit / Fabian Heckle
There are plenty of home remedies that are supposed to drive away voles by developing smells or noises. High-proof alcohol, for example denatured alcohol, has a relatively good effect. Periodically give it a shot in any corridor you spot. Hobby gardeners have had mixed experiences with ultrasonic probes: in some cases they actually drove the voles away, in other cases they had hardly any effect. The nature of the soil also seems to play a major role here. Cohesive, loamy soils transmit the sound waves much better than loose sandy soils.
To combat voles, some hobby gardeners use defense plants to keep the rodents away: These include imperial crown, cruciferous milkweed, garlic and dog's tongue. Since the tubers of the Jerusalem artichoke are one of the absolute favorite foods of voles, some hobby gardeners plant Jerusalem artichokes specifically in order to distract the animals from the other garden plants.
In order to drive away the odor-sensitive animals, some strongly smelling plants such as thuja branches or walnut leaves put in the voles' passages. Human hair is also said to have an extremely deterrent effect on voles. If you don't want to sacrifice your own head of hair, just ask your hairdresser if they can give you a clump of undyed and unbleached hair.
With a special root protection cage made of close-meshed wire mesh, you can protect your plants against voles over the long term. Surround your flower bulbs or your fruit trees with them when you plant them. Warning: plastic baskets are useless, they are easily bitten through by the rodents.
Combating with noises
Mechanical alarm clocks that tick loudly have a certain effect if you dig them into the ground in a tin can. You can also keep part of the garden vole-free with small windmills that rotate a capsule filled with screw nuts or glass marbles and transmit the noises directly to the ground via a metal rod. In the same way as to drive away moles, you can dig bottles into the ground at an angle with the opening facing upwards. The wind creates a whistling noise in it that is supposed to drive the animals to flight.
Natural enemies of voles
Hobby gardeners can also get four-legged help: young, motivated cats, for example, can easily keep a vole colony in check. Dogs, on the other hand, can dig half of the garden if you are not careful.
If you live in a rural region, you should set up wooden poles with short crossbars in the garden as hunting seats for buzzards and other birds of prey. An overgrown corner with piles of dead wood or stones attracts other vole enemies such as the mouse weasel. The fox is also a very efficient field mouse and vole hunter. He likes to roam the gardens in the outskirts at night in search of food.
What do voles look like?
The vole is a mouse between 7 and 22 centimeters long and 80 to 200 grams heavy. Their fur is usually gray-brown, rarely black or red-brown. The tail is quite short and barely hairy. The ears are also relatively small and sometimes hardly visible. The head, on the other hand, is quite large and broad.
How do you recognize voles in the garden?
In order to examine whether the mound of earth comes from a vole or the protected mole, the so-called tumble test can be used. To do this, the corridor is exposed 30 centimeters each in several places. If there are voles, the passage is closed again after a few hours.
How deep do voles dig?
Voles usually dig at a depth of between five centimeters and one meter. Some of the tunnels run very close to the ground.
How many voles live in a burrow?
Usually voles are solitary animals. They only come together during the mating season from April to September. A female gives birth to up to 25 young three to four times a year.
What do voles eat?
Voles have a purely vegetable diet and prefer the tubers and roots of various plants. Tulip bulbs or carrots are particularly popular, but the roots of fruit trees or roses are also on their menu.
What drives voles away?
Certain plants can be used against voles. There are also various vole traps that can be used to catch the mice. For animal welfare reasons, a so-called box trap is advisable. Various home remedies also help drive the mice away.
Which plant drives away voles?
Voles can be driven out of the garden by some plants. These include, for example, the imperial crown (Frittilaria imperialis), which smells like garlic, or the sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis), an intensely fragrant medicinal plant.
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