Voles and Moles: often confused but are very different!
In my experiences with moles and voles I find that my customers really do not know the difference between the rodents. Yep, both cause untold damage to the property. Yep, moles like grubs but would rather eat earth worms as a preference. Moles in particular can really tunnel in their never ending search for food!
Voles and moles do not hibernate they eat and destroy year round. Spring is the most active time for both. Voles and moles have very poor eye sight and both moles and voles have a great ability to stay underground in their tunnels only having to seek oxygen when it is absolutely necessary. And yes they are small with short tales and are usually gray (at least in Maryland and particularly Anne Arundel County). If they happen to get in your house: they are slow and easily dealt with (a housewife told me a broom is effective when you find them!). But you better find the nest: seldom is there only one vole! The vole is a dirty little rodent: Get them out of your house and flower beds.
A client of mind showed me damage to their rose garden. In just one winter 1/3 of the rosebushes (out of 100 bushes) were destroyed by voles. The little critters ate the roots right off. The bushes pulled up with little roots remaining! The client didn't discover the damage until late spring when the roses did not begin to grow vigorously. Then the client showed me his compacta hollies and the Korean Lilac's. Yes, over $1500.00 in damage in one winter! It took us over a year to get a handle on the blind, voraciously reproducing and incredible eaters! We still have not won completely. The voles will generally reproduce with litters of 3-11, 5-6 times per year! The females begin to reproduce after about 4-6 weeks after birth! And guess what: the typical vole rarely lives more than a year! The vole is small, usually 3"-4" in length plus a short tail of 2"-3".
When you find damage to your perennials and shrubbery, you need to take quick action. There are numerous products on the market but you are best advised to call a pro! Voles are too often not dealt with in the flower beds. Voles seldom go into the yard. Look for the broom handle sized holes in the beds; a sure sign of vole activity.
Now back to the basic question: we know about voles; what about the moles! Almost all of our customers are able to spot mole trails. I would describe the trail as a meandering path with dirt pushed up into the lawn and humped grass along the way. Here is the real dilemma: a good well maintained lawn with vigorous growth of grass is a prime target for moles: A good lawn always has a plentiful source of food for the mole: earthworms!! Yep, succulent fat earthworms! Usually a mole will have its own territory and most often the territory has only one family living in your lawn. It brings to mind the hilarious scene in 'Caddy Shack': chasing the mole and destroying the lawn! Some clients rely on the balance of nature (this means let our dog dig up the lawn and kill the critters or let the cat catch, kill and sometimes eat the mole….) I guess if you do not mind the mess, and the extra protein for the cat and a very happy dog….. You will find moles in the lawn.. Take action immediately. Don't wait: the mole will happily eat worms year round. If the mole runs out of worms he will gladly eat grubs (grubs are another story) as the grub works his way through the soil to the surface to turn into a beetle to eat your rosebud, your crape myrtle buds; you get the picture.
Sometimes we have to use traps to capture and eliminate the 6" long moles. (I told my wife I am saving the moles: she will be the proud owner of a mole skin coat someday..)
Moles reproduce in the spring of the year, they live under ground and can burrow 40'-60' a day and probably will devour 50 pounds of earthworms per year. Plus the dead grass trails really are not attractive.
Keep looking for articles: I will have more information about a variety of lawn related topics.
Mark Leahy is the President of Blades of Green lawn Care and Pest Control of Columbia, a family owned lawn care and pest control company. Mark has concentrated his efforts in Central Maryland as well as Maryland's Eastern Shore. Mark has over 20 years experience in the Lawn and Pest Control Industries, including Mole & Vole Control in Maryland & Northern Virginia