Voles are about the size of a mouse and they have small, inconspicuous eyes and very short tails. Like most rodents, they have a pair of "buck teeth" coming from their top jaw. Their fir is charcoal gray to brown on their backs but their underside is generally of a lighter color. People have noticed that they do not climb well and usually have difficulty overcoming a barrier 6 inches or so in height.

They travel around in very shallow tunnels that sometimes collapse in on themselves and more resemble a trench. Their diet consists almost exclusively of vegetable matter and they love to chew on the roots and crowns of hosta plants. Voles are not known to eat hosta leaves.

One of the tell-tale signs of voles is the presence of quarter-sized holes near the base of the hosta plant. If they have been feeding on the roots and crown for a while, the first symptoms you will see is that the leaves will begin to wilt. No roots...no water. Of course, if the critters consume enough of the crown, the plant will be killed.

Fortunately, voles are not common to all parts of hostadom but, if you find them in your collection, there are several ways to "manage" them. I say manage because many hosta gardens in a woodlot setting and that is the natural home of these creatures. Even if you get rid of every vole in your garden, the odds are great that new ones will move back in soon.

Like all the other major pests of hostas, there is no single "magic bullet" that will once and for all eliminate voles from your garden...at least not without turning the place into a sterile, radioactive wasteland. Here are a bunch of things that people have used with varying degrees of success: wire baskets around the hostas, planting hostas in pots inside of pots in the ground, putting sharp gravel in the planting hole, live traps, mouse traps and...if all else fails, poison baits.

Mr PGC Note: If you decide to resort to poison baits, do an internet search to find designs for techniques to make sure that only the voles eat the bait. There are specially designed boxes, pvc pipes and other methods for minimizing the impact on non-target species such as birds.

 

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