I would first like to apologize for my absense. We sort of ran out of internet data for the month and I have been rather busy dealing with stuff which I am about to talk about in this post. We only have 30gb a month which is normally enough but somehow we used it up this month. But enough about that. Today I want to discuss voles, what they are and what they did to our plants and trees over the winter.
Almost 2 weeks ago, we discovered that voles had destroyed our fruit trees and a lot of perennials over the winter. This discovery has been devastating for us because we lost a lot – not just in monetary terms but also in the amount of time spent on them. I know from talking to other people that not many people have even heard of voles so I would like to share more about them and how to hopefully avoid a loss like we have experienced. I like to use this blog to share what I learn and this was a major lesson.
First off. What is a vole you might ask? A vole is a rodent that is a bit bigger than a mouse and I would love to call it evil but that isn’t all that fair. A vole does what it does and I really doubt there is any good or evil intentions behind it. It looks a bit different than a mouse too. It’s tail is a fair bit shorter and it’s face is a bit different. They live and tunnel through the snow over the winter. They can dig shallow tunnels through the dirt as well. Over the summer they seem to live under things kind of like a mouse I suppose. Plus they can breed incredibly fast. They can start breeding at 1 month of age. In optimum conditions, each female vole could have about 100 babies in a year. Plus each of those babies that survives has many babies and I don’t even want to calculate how many that would be. Apparently they breed faster than rabbits. So it is no wonder they can do a lot of damage in a short period of time. We have had problems with them for a few years now but nothing like the damage we have seen this year.
Now for the damage we found. The winter of 2012-13, they had destroyed a few of my perennials and hurt a bunch more. They tore up areas of the lawn as well. We knew they cause a lot of damage. This last fall (2013) we made preparations to hopefully control the amount that could roam around under the snow. My dad had the idea to make poison bait stations and we designed one that would hopefully not get too wet inside it. I would like to say right away that I do not like using poison unless it is necessary. In this case, it was. My dad cut the bottom few inches off of 5 gallon pails and drilled small holes around the base. We put mouse poison inside and placed a board on top to keep out the snow. We made a bunch and placed them around the perennials and Strawberry plants. It worked well but I don’t think we put enough bait inside. All the bait is gone but there were still enough voles to cause major damage.
We have been waiting probably most of the winter to be able to see what kind of damage our perennials sustained but didn’t even think that the fruit trees would be a possible target. A couple weeks ago, the snow finally melted enough that the damage was uncovered. My dad noticed it first. He brought what looked like mulch to me and said it came from the cherry tree. The voles chewed the bark off of all the fruit trees to make what appears to be nests maybe. The darn voles never ate it. The fruit trees are stripped bare on their trunks around the base of the tree that was underneath the snow. We have been planting fruit trees for about 10-15 years. They were finally at a point that we could start selling some of the fruit this coming year. The voles changed that. We had close to 10 mature cherry trees, about 30 honeyberry bushes, 5 apple trees that produce eating apples, 2 pear trees, 4 saskatoon bushes, 2 blueberry bushes and a few hundred strawberry plants. The strawberry plants were turned into mulch but not all were destroyed thankfully. We have spent countless hours tending to the trees, pruning them, and weeding around them. All that work was finally paying off. Seeing this damage left us devastated and in shock. Now we get to wait and see if any of it might come back despite some professionals saying it probably won’t. Some say wait and see because there is an extremely slim chance they will not all be dead. So I am hoping for miracles to happen. Right now we are considering what our options are and whether there might be any way to save any of it. There is a lot of money’s worth and time invested in these trees. It would be a shame to have to start all over again. I will post some photos below of the damage that they caused.
What have we learned? This winter was ideal conditions for them to breed and basically raise an army. They do not just attack perennials or wreck the lawn, but also trees as well. But they never did anything to our mature willow trees or spruce trees which is odd to me. Many people attribute vole damage to mice which isn’t quite correct but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter who we blame right? At least in this case, the way to prevent damage would be the same if you are expecting voles or mice. Articles I have read say that you should put wire mesh around tree trunks to protect the trunks and place bait stations on the ground under the snow. I wish I had known about the wire mesh. It is too late now for that so kicking myself doesn’t help. But for this next year, you can be sure to see wire mesh around every fruit tree trunk that is still alive! 🙂 We also have a cat now too and he is an excellent mouser…. er… vole killer. lol I actually just saw him catch another one this morning. So I think it is safe to say he is helping us in the fight against the voles. Voles destroy trees that benefit the environment and the trees also give us food so in my books, too many voles is a bad thing. I don’t mind seeing the population level of the voles go down.
Below are photos I took 2 weeks ago of the damage to the fruit trees. As you can see, the voles ate the bark off the base of the trees. Trees can not survive without the bark.
Here I would like to show 2 photos. The first is of a Honeyberry bush that the voles didn’t manage to touch for what ever reason. It is a bit hard to see but you will see the difference between the 2. The second is what the honeyberry bushes look like after voles visited and had a very big feast on. I suppose it is a bit like a before and after shot. It’s quite sad what they did. But on the bright side, the voles didn’t destroy all of the honeyberry bushes and the bushes that have been chewed on have varying degrees of damage. Although most look like the chewed up version below.
I hope this post has been somewhat informative and not just sad. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. 🙂