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Moles, voles leave destructive tunnels


By NANCY O'DONNELL Albany Times Union

All too often the name mole and vole are interchanged, and they wind up being blamed for the other's improprieties. But there are many more differences between these two little varmints than just the spelling of their names.
For starters, their appetites are like night and day. A little ditty to remember: Moles are carnivores, aka meat eaters (M for meat, M for mole); voles are vegetarians, (V and V). - By re­membering this you can clearly pinpoint the culprit to the damage.
Moles feed on earthworms (their, favorite), some grubs (thus they are not a good indicator of grub problems in a lawn) and other underground insects such as centipedes and millipedes. Voles much prefer to dine on bulbs, roots and, the tender bark of young trees and shrubs.
Moles are small mammals, shirttail cousins to the shrew: a little hunter, who maintains its robust figure by consuming up­wards - 50 pounds of worms and insects a year.

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During snowy winters:
  • Voles will often tunnel between the snow and soil in search of plants
  • Vole’s claim to fame is depressed rather than raised tunnel Contrary to popular belief, moles do indeed have eyes and ears; however they are extremely tiny, and their eyes are covered by a thin membrane to keep dirt out, adaptations neces­sary for their underground lifestyle. They have short stubby tails, pug-like noses and at maturity can reach close to 8 inches long.
    It's a rarity to see a mole above ground, as this would make them sitting ducks for predators such as cats, owls and hawks.
    Moles use their powerful front legs and. large, flattened feet to dig those annoying underground tunnels that excavate the soil upwards, making your lawn look as if a miniature train had motored through. Sadly, these highways are most likely to occur beneath lawns that receive tender loving care by their owner. As a result it's a healthy lawn, rich in tasty earthworms.
    Moles are most active in the spring and fall; they can dig surface (food-searching) tunnels at a rate of 18 feet per hour and travel through deeper main tunnels at lightning speeds of up to 80 feet per minute.

    Voles are also mammals, but are further classified as rodents, which leads many to refer to them as meadow mice. They are chunky little fellas with little ears and eyes and a lengthier tail than the mole; full-grown adults can reach 7 inches long. Where the confusion be­gins to arise between the two is when the vole uses the mole's underground highway system.
    During snowy winters, voles will often tunnel between the snow and soil in search of plants. A vole's claim to fame is a depressed rather than raised tunnel theirs looks similar to the mark left on your lawn if you leave a garden hose stretched across it for a number of days.
    Voles are also known to tunnel between mulch and soil. Remember, mulch modifies soil temperature fluctuations. Many homeowners plant bulbs and other landscape plants in late October, early November because of deep price cuts (which is fine) but then they mulch (not fine). It's this late mulching that keeps the soil warmer longer into the winter, making the garden a haven for voles. If you plant late, water thoroughly until the ground freezes solid but leave the mulching until spring.
    Population-wise; because voles are rodents, they breed like rodents. When conditions are right, vole communities have been known to explode, spelling trouble for plants and bulbs.
    Moles, on the other hand, are loners. Rarely will more than two moles call the same lawn home at one time, and their litter consists of only four to six babies.
    Mortality rates are high:
    Roughly 50 percent of moles will never mature to reproduce, and thus their population is held in check.

    We use a product called Talpirid, which is a bait to kill moles. For more customer information, go to www.talpirid.com, or can also be found on the Bell laboratories, Inc. web site.

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