Voles (meadow mice) are members of the rodent family. They can cause considerable damage to landscape plantings and turf particularly in late winter or early spring when food sources become harder to find.
Voles are small rodents with tiny ears, small dark eyes, and short tails. They can explode in numbers to several hundred per acre where there is a good grassy habitat and lack of natural predators.
Moles, on the other hand, have beak-like noses, tiny rudimentary eyes, no visible ears, and paddle-like front feet with large claws.
Voles seldom burrow long, underground tunnels like moles. Instead, they make runways or paths through the turf canopy and flowerbed mulch. On occasion they use an existing mole tunnel to travel short distances.
Unlike moles that feed primarily on earthworms, grubs, and other insect larvae, voles feed on plants. The bark of thin-barked trees and shrubs is their preferred food. The girdling of these plants can become severe enough that the plants are weakened and eventually die. Succulent plants such as Hosta and turf can often be eaten to the ground, but usually come back once the voles are removed.
Published January 3, 2011
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. firstname.lastname@example.org