Winter Vole Damage

by philinshelton on March 12, 2009

in Bamboo Critters

Think you have vole damage, but you're not sure what to look for?  In this article, you will see pics of vole damage in container bamboo, and some other vole signs.  Click on linked text to see an image, or click on thumbnails to enlarge.  What Are Voles ?
Meadow Vole

Meadow Vole

Voles, are small, burrowing rodents that feed on the roots and crowns of grasses and other plants, including bamboo.  Based on pics and descriptions¹ the one we have here at the nursery is Microtus townsendii, commonly known as Townsends Meadow Vole² .  Voles feed on bamboo roots and new shoot buds, (underground) and will "graze" the tops of small plants as well.  Most of the damage to bamboo, especially container plants, occurs during winter, when food sources are scarce.  If your bamboo is growing next to pasture, woods, or large grassy areas, it's probably growing in vole heaven. Signs in the Grove
Healthy and vole damaged bamboo plants

Vole access hole and sticky trap

Voles access root and shoot buds through underground runs.  They are drawn to mulches and natural leaf litter produced in the grove, and create surface channels at the interface between the soil and mulch.  Surface openings are about 2" in diameter, (pictured right) and lack the mound of soil characteristic of mole activity.  Root feeding causes the culms to lean, or fall over if feeding is severe.  

Container Damage

Vole hole in a container of Fargesia robusta

Vole hole in a container of Fargesia robusta

Voles will excavate potting mix from container bamboos, eating roots and young shoot buds (pretty much everything below the potting mix) as they go.  They can also munch down the culms of very small plants.  Access holes are often visible on the surface of the potting mix (pictured right).  Voles eat, and leave piles of poo which are another, easy-to-spot vole sign. Next, I write about some strategies to minimize vole damage to bamboo container plants.

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Vole Patrol | Bamboo Bits and Pieces
April 1, 2009 at 11:06 pm

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Leslie Coulter March 23, 2009 at 6:05 pm

I noticed that those voles ate some of our Helictotrichon sempervirens (blue oat grass) that were in pots under cover this winter, but did not touch the neighboring Miscanthus that was also under cover. Could the Miscanthus tougher, serrated margins have deterred the little buggers?

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