Voles are a type of rodent, similar to moles. However, these underground creatures eat mostly plants, unlike moles that eat insects. A vole can be a garden’s worst enemy, because they eat their body weight in food each day, take only 12 days to grow to adulthood, can have up to 17 litters of at least three voles each year, and are small enough to avoid many common traps. There are very few plants that a vole will not eat, and if voles are present in your garden, the only way to control them is with barrier blocks or traps.
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Grasses are a large part of a vole’s diet. Any kind of grass will attract voles. Since voles are most common in the eastern and central United States, they prefer cool-weather grasses, such as fescue and bluegrass. Voles will eat both the roots and blades of grass.
Vegetable plants are particularly attractive to voles. Voles will eat the roots and stalks of the vegetables, but they may also eat the vegetables themselves. Voles will often follow behind premade mole passageways and eat the roots of plants that they run across inside these tunnels. Voles can completely kill entire gardens. Some of their favourite vegetables include tomatoes, corn, soybeans, beets, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, sweet potatoes and any vegetable plants under 12 inches tall.
Fruit is another favourite of voles. Just like humans, voles love the sweet taste of fruit and fruit plants. Some of their favourite fruits include apples, berries, pears, melons and others.
During the spring and summer, voles are more likely to eat the roots, stalk and leaves of plants. Most of the feeding occurs at night when they can emerge from the ground with somewhat less danger. Voles will feed on almost any plant, but plants that grow less than 12 inches tall are the most susceptible. Voles prefer vegetation that is tender new growth, and are more likely to eat a plant that is newly emerged from the soil. Voles will also eat bulbs in the summer and fall. Weeds, such as clover and dandelion are also favourites with voles.
During the fall and winter voles turn to eating more grains, seeds, bulbs and roots. These foods provide a higher fat content for the voles to help them survive the winter. Voles will often attack seeds and bulbs planted in the fall, such as lilies and daffodils.
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