The Diet of Voles

Voles are neither the biggest nor the most aggressive rodents out there. They don’t like to get in our homes and they don’t do any significant property damage to our structure or belongings. They can transmit diseases but rarely do so as they don’t bite often and don’t live in our homes. However, what makes voles pests is their obnoxious vole diet preferences.

Like most rodents voles are omnivores. They can eat anything but they have a rather refined taste for most types of vegetation we usually grow in our yards, gardens or farms. This is problematic as they can both wreak havoc to our garden or farm, utterly destroying a year’s worth of crops, as well as simply ruin our lawn by digging dozens of tunnels underneath it, nibbling on the grass’ roots and stems. Combine their eating preferences with their incredibly fast reproduction cycle and you get a pest that can lay waste to the vegetation and soil of any area before it has even been noticed.

So, exactly what do voles eat and why that matters?

What do voles eat?

Voles love to feed on almost any type of vegetation. A lot can be said about their precise nutrient requirements but the gist of it is that they can eat most of the things you’d like to grow in your yard or garden.

In lawns and fields, they love to eat grasses and to nibble on tree bark and tree roots to a point where they can kill many trees. In gardens and farmlands, voles can feed on almost any vegetable, as well as on their roots and tubers. In other words, voles will eat almost anything that you might have growing on your property. This is a large reason why they are such a common pest and it’s also a very important reason why almost any homeowner should be prepared for a possible vole infestation at any time.

What do voles not eat?

Believe it or not, even voles don’t eat anything. There are certain plants and vegetation that voles will either skip and avoid or be repelled by altogether. This is quite significant because it means that you can make your garden fully vole-proof by focusing on these plants or at least aid yourself in repelling voles by using some of them on the periphery of your property. Some of the more popular plants include:

  • Lenten rose: This rose is evergreen, very easy to grow, and it’s vole-resistant – a great top pick of many gardeners.
  • Daffodils: These beautiful plants are poisonous to consume which is why voles avoid them. Be careful if you have pets, however.
  • Crown imperial: Loved by gardeners for their height, these plants have a rather strong smell that repels voles.
  • Salvia: Another smelly option, Salvia easily keeps voles at bay.
  • Castor bean: This plant is rich on ricin which may be a problem if you have kids or pets but is great if you want to keep voles away.
  • Jack-in-the-Pulpit: An American corm plant, Jack-in-the-Pulpit is an effective vole repellent plant.
  • Snowdrops: Voles love most spring flowers and snowdrops are among the few exceptions. This makes them a great way to protect your spring garden.
  • Grape Hyacinth: These interesting flowers repel voles and last for quite some time, making them a great choice for lazy gardeners.
  • Trout Lily: Beautiful and vole-resistant, the Trout Lily is a favorite of many gardeners.
  • Irises: Despite being a delicate flower, almost all irises are known to repel voles.

What do voles eat during the winter months?

Like many other rodents, voles don’t hibernate during the winter. Instead, they molt, they stay warm in their tunnels under the snow, and they eat whatever they can find. This is the period when they diversify their diet the most. If you’re wondering do voles eat grubs – they do in the winter. They also eat any insect they can catch, any winter underground root or vegetable that you might have sown for the spring, and even dead animals. Yes, voles can be even vultures when they need to.

Vole in the winter eating grass

Lev Frid/Shutterstock.com

How can you use vole’s diets against them?

The easiest way to prevent a vole infestation is by using any of the vole repelling plants and vegetation we mentioned above. Together with that, you can also make sure to reduce any of their preferred food sources. Keep all plants, vegetables, and trees that voles might take interest in surrounded by metal fences that go at least 4 or 5 inches deep into the soil. This will prevent the voles from digging underneath as well as from climbing over the fencing.

Additionally, keep whatever grass and other vegetation you have as short as possible. Voles may live in underground tunnels but they also surface quite often to eat the above-ground tubes of many plants. That’s why they prefer areas with tall grass or with a lot of ground cover, as this allows them to stay out of sight of predators. If you trim your lawn’s grass short enough and if you make sure to keep any trash piles, brush or overgrown weeds of your property, voles will be less incentivized to invade your property because it won’t offer them enough cover.

Are there differences in the diets of the various vole species?

What do meadow voles eat? What do prairie voles eat? Are there any significant differences between the different vole species’ diets?

The easiest way to answer that question is to say that all voles eat almost any vegetation they can lay their paws on. You can let a meadow vole, a water vole, a woodland vole, or a prairie vole in your garden, and in all cases, the end result will be negative for your property. Of course, different species have different preferences. For example, woodland voles are especially fond of trees which makes them the Number 1 pest in apple orchards, for example. Prairie voles are more accustomed to eating grass as this is what they are accustomed to, while meadow voles are keener on agricultural plant species.

Whichever vole species gets near your property, however, you’d do best to keep them away.

Conclusion

Voles’ diets are exactly what makes them the annoying pests that they are. Where with rodents such as mice and rats you can do a lot to make sure that they’ll find little to no suitable food sources in your property, voles will almost always find something to eat in your garden unless you’ve covered all of it with vole-repelling plants. That’s exactly why it’s vital to always be prepared for vole prevention and immediate control.

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2 Comments

Barbara

Had a box turtle lay eggs in flower bed were the voles are ! Is it possible they will eat th eggs ?

    Karen

    They might. I’d suggest you put a cage around the nest so voles can’t get to the eggs.

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