Q. How can I prevent voles from killing my privet plants by "girdling" them?
Voles, small mammals resembling mice, can cause extensive damage to ornamentals, orchards, and tree plantings by gnawing around the plants' base. Once they have gnawed all the way around a plant, it cannot survive. Voles usually cause this damage in winter; often it's not discovered until spring.
Meadow voles and pine voles are the most common varieties in the New York area. Meadow voles usually girdle plants at or slightly above ground level, while pine voles commonly attack underground roots. Voles breed rapidly, so a small infestation can result in a lot of dead plants if voles are left unchecked. (Other animals, such as rabbits, also girdle plants; vole gnaw marks are distinctive for their irregularity and small size.) It's important to address a vole infestation as soon as it is discovered.
Toxic bait is the most successful method of control. Zinc phosphide and anti-coagulant baits are most effective.
Wrapping 1/4-inch galvanized hardware cloth around the base of plants very effectively prevents meadow voles from inflicting further damage. However, this method cannot stop root-gnawing pine voles.
To reduce food and shelter available to voles, keep ground cover short and litter-free.
Repellents containing either thiram or capsaicin may provide a short-term benefit, but their effectiveness is not proven.
For details on vole control methods, see Cornell Cooperative Extension's Vole Fact Sheet and Integrated Pest Management information page, as well as the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage's Vole Control Information.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service