Now that the snow has finally melted in the Philadelphia area, many homeowners are seeing strange runways chiseled through their lawns. Most likely, the culprits are voles, who have quietly dug paths under the snow all winter, digging up lawns in the process. There are ways to fix your lawn. But, some damage is so extensive that homeowners require professional help. Besides your lawn, these little rodents can also cause big problems for certain trees and shrubs.
What are Voles?
Voles, otherwise known as “Meadow Mice”, are small rodents with very active lifestyles in the winter. They live under dense shrubs and mulch and other hiding places like wood or rock piles. Voles eat grass, and in winter, the snow provides the perfect cover for voles to venture from their burrows in search of food without fear of predators.
Surprise! There's Tunnels in Your Lawn!
When the snow melts, many homeowners are surprised to discover that voles were living in their yards undisturbed for months, destroying lawns as they ate the grass along the paths they travel. Drew Slousky, Giroud Vice President and ISA Certified Arborist, has been seeing signs of lawn damage from voles at many of his clients' properties. Check out his video of a recent encounter:
Trees and Shrubs are at Risk for Vole Damage, too
Although lawn damage caused by voles is very easy to see, these invasive little creatures also feast on the bark of certain trees and shrubs.
“Voles will feed on the roots, trunks and branches of some shrubs because they are feeding on the starches and the sugars to stay alive in winter,” explains Drew Slousky. “If they chew the bark completely off, they could kill a shrub or a tree.”
Single stemmed trees like Dogwoods and Crabapples will likely die if voles have girdled the tree by eating the bark completely around the trunk.
Multi-stemmed shrubs like Juniper, rhododendron, Viburnum, Euonymous (Burning Bush) and Azalea can survive. Professional pruning or fertilization will help with recovery.
How to Protect Your Lawn, Trees and Shrubs from Voles
The quick answer is- Take away their hiding spots! Voles burrow under anything that may act as a cover in order to keep out of the watchful eyes of predators. In the winter, snow is the perfect hiding spot. As the weather warms, mulch becomes a great cover for them. Giroud always stresses the importance of never piling mulch against the trunk of a tree or shrubs. It can cause a multitude of problems and voles are just another reason why proper mulching is important. Creating a space for voles to burrow is an invitation for them to chew on the bark of your trees and shrubs! Mike McGrath of the popular NPR radio show You Bet Your Garden offers some other great tips for deterring voles on the Garden's Alive website, including all natural ideas.
Take Action Now to Correct Vole Damage
The good news is most lawns will recover from minimal vole damage. Homeowners just need to take a few easy steps.
- Rake the debris and excrement from the runways to promote growth
- Fill pathways with topsoil
- Fertilize and overseed areas that do not recover
- Prune and fertilize trees and shrubs that have been chewed by voles
Lawns with extensive damage may require lawn service intervention. A Giroud Lawn Care Specialist can do a full evaluation for you. Call 215-682-7704 Today to schedule a FREE Property Inspection!