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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Vole Wars

I apologize for providing no pictures.  I just couldn't think of any good ones to take.  Mole tunnels do not show up well and my cats didn't catch any voles today...  So, I'll just move along to narrative.

I'm trying to discourage moles.  Not because they cause me much trouble, but because their tunnels are used by voles.  And VOLES cause me a lot of grief.  Voles eat plant roots and I have a lot of flowers and veggies in my yard.

Just as an example, I planted tulip bulbs 5 years ago in my flowerbed.  And, in an attempt to kill off the winter weeds that plague me in the Spring, I covered the entire flowerbed in black plastic  When I removed the plastic in the Spring, I found the oddest thing.  There were circles of 8" deep holes all around the flowerbed.  I couldn't figure out what caused them.  That is, until I discovered a half-eaten tulip bulb in one of the holes!  They had thrived under the black plastic (safe from predators) all Winter and found nearly every single tulip bulb I planted.

And then I noticed that each spot was near a mole tunnel.  "Often, moles will serve as the "highway crew" and make tunnels in search of grubs and worms. Voles will often follow the mole tunnels and eat the plants which the moles ignore." (citation)

They can also be trapped, but you will never get most of them.  So I decided that I had to discourage the moles to reduce the voles.  First, I applied Milky Spore to reduce the mole's favorite food (chafer grubs) last year.  Today, I applied parasitic nematodes to the entire area where I have seen mole tunnels or vole damage.

The parasitic nematodes seek and feed on grubs.  My best friend and I both have grubs in our lawns.  He doesn't have moles or voles, but when I was helping him plant crocuses in his lawn last Fall, I discovered his lawn was infested with grubs (oddly little evidence in the health of his lawn though).  In my lawn, I surmise their presence by the activity of moles and the evidence of voles following the mole tunnels.

It was quite an interesting experience.  The parasitic nematodes come in a small envelope of dissolvable material.  You put it in a hose end sprayer, watering can, or pump sprayer to disperse them.  It sounds simple, and for most people, it would be. I, however, never have "normal" experiences...  *SIGH*

First, you have to soak the area.  I was clever (fortunate) enough to have a short rainshower this afternoon.  Yay!  So that step was free.  They I had to apply the nematodes.  I had a watercan full of rainwater and at outside temperature, so that was perfect.  I used it to fill the hose end sprayer I had.  The instructions were quite specific that the application device not have any chemicals in it.  Mine was unused (after 15 years, LOL!).  Just never used it before (I have two of them, the other has been used many times).

So I mixed some of the nemotode material into the hose end sprayed container and turned it on.  It not only leaked around the coupling, spray hit my face from the leaks.  I had to shut the water off fast and fuss with it a bit.  I finally found  some combination on tightenings and rotations that stopped the leaking.

I set about spraying the waterborne nematodes all around the yard and woods (the moles like the woods best here for some odd reason).

Oops, I should mention that the lawn grass is 6 inches high and was soaking wet from the rain.  That's because my mower is broken and has been at a repair place FOR A WEEK and they haven't even called with an estimate yet...  I never have simple problems.  I have to warn repairmen that whatever the problem is, it won't be what they expect.  Like if I have an electrical problem, it is never just a blown fuse.  Or if the cable signal goes bad, it is never just a cable box problem; the wire was burned by a lightening  strike...

So, back to the nematode spraying.  My hose end sprayer was leaking like a seive and I had to keep fighting with it to prevent the leaks (a mist really) getting all over me.  I sort of assume I didn't want to be inhaling parasitic nematodes.  But I eventually got that to stop.

I had 30 fun-packed minutes of spraying nematode water all over the yard in 90 degree heat and 90% humidity.  I made sure to soak all areas where I had ever seen mole/vole evidence heavily and all other areas lightly.

Then I had to hose down the entire area again with plain water per instructions (I imagine because lots of little nematodes were sprayed onto grass leaves and not the soil itself.  That took another 30 minutes (after fighting with a standard hose nozzle on a "quick-connect" coupling that was working perfectly well previously but now refused to connect THIS time).

Even having a towel with me was not enough to keep the sweat from dripping into my eyes and down my neck.  My shoes and socks were soaked through from the rain and hose water on the lawn grass.

By the time I was done at 6:30, I was soaked in water up to my knees and from sweat down to my waist.  Inside later, I found a tick on my head and one on an arm.  I sweated for 30 minutes (lost 2 pounds, which was nice), and my hand was cramped from holding the hose nozzle for 20 minutes (off and on).

At this time I can say that, happily, the dehydration justified drinking an entire bottle of wine (Old Vine Zinfandel by Twisted Wine Cellars - really good inexpensive wine)

So when I say I don't have "routine problems", this is what I mean.

My next step in the attack is do apply a 2nd round of Milky Spore Disease.  After that, I will spray cartor oil around the yard.  That doesn't kill ANYTHING, but it makes the grubs taste terrible to moles.  

So the moles will find less food and what the find will taste awful and they will leave my yard.  The voles won't have the mole tunnels to use to find plant roots, and they will be easier for cats and owls and raptors to find and eat.  Then, when I place mousetraps under boxes at vole exits, I will catch the last of them.

I don't have to kill all the voles, just keep the population in check.  But if I COULD kill the last one in my yard, I wouldn't mourn their absence.  LOL!

Iza the cat would though.  She likes catching them.  Unfortunately, she isn't very good at actually killing them...  I've watched her.  She leaves them after they stop trying to escape.  I'm more lethal.  When Iza leaves them, I go out and stomp them...

1 comment:

Jacqueline said...

I sure hope you get rid of them; I'm very impressed with your knowledge about your yard/plants... It sounds like you've got most things in your yard under control.