It’s pretty safe to say that anyone who’s ever said “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill,” hasn’t had to deal with moles in their lawn. These tiny destructive pests can wreak havoc on just about any lawn without you ever even seeing one. But, they’re not the only furry critters that could be causing damage to your lawn. Voles are the other threat. While these two lawn pests may appear very similar and even cause similar types of turf damage, they are two completely different animals. So let’s take a look at the differences between moles and voles, diagnose lawn damage from these critters, and figure out how to get rid of and prevent moles and voles in your New Hampshire lawn.
The three types of moles that live here in New Hampshire are the hairy-tailed moles, eastern moles, and star-nosed moles. It’s very rare to see these animals above ground as they spend virtually all of their lives underground. They have very dark gray or black velvet-like fur, tiny eyes that are covered up by fur, and no visible ears. Their nose is long and pointed and with the star-nosed mole they have fleshy tentacle-like appendages in a star shape around their nose. Moles also have large front claws used for digging.
Moles live underground in a labyrinth of tunnels. They can live in any area, as long as it has soil. The only continents where they won’t be found are Antarctica and South America. Their tunnel-system is complex, with different rooms dedicated to different uses. They have bedrooms for sleeping, birthing rooms, and even kitchens for storing food. The underground life of moles is complex and unique.
Contrary to popular belief, moles are not rodents. They’re actually insectivores, feeding exclusively on insects, worms, and grubs. They will not eat your plants, roots, or grass.
Here in New Hampshire, there are two types of voles that we have to deal with, the pine vole and the meadow vole. The pine vole is 4 – 5 inches long with a short tail, tiny eyes, and ears that are nearly covered by their light brown fur. The meadow vole is a little bigger at 7 inches with a long tail, big eyes, protruding ears, and coarse brown/gray fur.
The big difference between these two rodents is where they live. Meadow voles live above ground whereas pine voles, like moles, live primarily underground. Unlike moles, voles don’t eat insects. Meadow voles and pine voles both like to munch on fruit, grass, and roots throughout the year and will eat bark during the winter.
Voles, unlike moles, are rodents. They have two large, continuously growing incisors that require constant gnawing to keep them from growing out of control. They are herbivores so, during the spring, summer, and fall will eat fruit, grass, tubers, and roots. During the winter, when the fruit is gone and there isn’t any live grass to eat, voles will eat the bark of trees, shrubs, and bushes.
Moles live their entire lives underground, digging out tunnels and searching for food. If you have a mole problem in your lawn, you’ll know it. Their 10 inch deep network of tunnels can sprawl across an entire lawn, producing large mounds of swollen earth throughout. You will also be able to see ridges of raised earth wherever their tunnels come close to the surface.
As they dig through your lawn, moles will damage the root system of your grass, leaving the roots exposed, and potentially causing large swathes of grass to die. As their tunnels collapse, your lawn will appear uneven and sunken. In a short time your lawn will start to look like a battleground.
Moles love to eat earthworms and as they chow down, your lawn will suffer as it loses the benefits of this helpful organism. Not only do they eat earthworms, they also eat grubs. Mole damage may be a side-effect of having a grub infestation. You may have to contend with unsightly mole damage and devastating grub damage, at the same time!
The damage caused by pine voles and meadow voles can be devastating. The worst part is that you may not even know that you have a vole problem until after the snow melts. During the winter, when there is no fruit or live grass to feed on, voles will feed exclusively on the bark of trees. Voles are a persistent problem in orchards all over New Hampshire. These tree-chewing pests are infamous for girdling trees, removing a strip of bark around the entire circumference of a tree. Voles target the roots and trunks of trees when they are feeding on the bark and this can be disastrous to the tree. Girdling causes extensive damage to trees. A girdled branch or root will die and fall off, whereas the girdling of the trunk of a tree can kill the entire tree.
They also make tunnels throughout the yard. These surface runways are typically above the soil, cutting through your turf, creating 1 inch wide tunnels made of grass. In these tunnels, the voles will chew the grass down to the soil, creating winding and unsightly patterns across your lawn. The pine vole, on the other hand, lives most of the year underground in dug-out tunnels. You may see small mounds where their entrances are, throughout your yard.
Once you have a mole problem there’s really only one way of removing the mole, trap it. Mole traps can be bought at most hardware or garden supply stores. Whether you choose to use mechanical traps or poison traps is up to you.
If you want to prevent moles from taking root in your lawn, then it’s time to consider grub control and prevention. Keeping grubs out of your lawn will help keep your lawn healthy and strong, it’ll also deter moles as they won’t have as much to eat. Here at Alliance Landscaping, we offer grub prevention as a part of our 7-Step Lawn Care program.
Vole control, as with mole control, comes down to two methods: trapping or baiting. There are many different types of vole traps that can be found at your local hardware or garden supply stores.
You can also make your lawn inhospitable to voles. These tiny rodents are the favorite meal for many different predators and require ample cover to avoid being hunted and eaten. Make sure you are regularly mowing your lawn to keep the grass short enough, reducing the areas where they can hide. It’s also a good idea to cut back brush and keep your bushes trimmed away from the ground. You will also want to avoid piling up too much mulch around the base of your trees and, during the winter, keep the snow away from the base of your trees as well.