Saturday, June 9, 2012

Jack the Nibbler

First off, I want to thank you all for coming to this press release.

I know in the past we have had several criminal incidents at the Red House Garden.  First we had a problem with the berries that were allegedly stolen by the American Robin gang and then the ongoing problem with nectar robbery, but we have never had criminal activity comparable to what is going on now.  Yes, everyone, we have a serial killer on the loose!

Victim #1 is a vine around 25 months old, often wearing small purple and white bells.
Identified as Clematis Pitcheri
Suspicious activity was first noticed this winter with the appearance of small, golf ball-sized holes in the ground.   Then we started seeing victims.

Another victim identified as Rosa Souvenir De La Malmaison
There have been several killings, as well as several missing bulb reports that we are looking into.  Several plants have survived the attacks and have just been wounded, however.

This victim is still in intensive care.  Authorities are still working to determine his identity, though appearances suggest he is from the Carex family.
We have noticed that this serial killer seems to be targeting victims on the fringes of the yard, next to wooded areas.  The modus operandi has been the same for each incident:  the killer tunnels under the ground and then, usually under the cover of night, strikes at the roots, biting them off and eating them. 

Another homicide victim:  Rosa Pat Austin
We do have a suspect in mind - we are pretty sure that this killer is from the Vole family.  So far this Vole has managed to elude authorities.  Since this Vole usually only comes out at night, there have been very few eye witnesses;  however, composite artists have managed to come up with a good likeness, with the help of Wikipedia:

Vole, alias Field Mouse - wanted for questioning in connection with several killings at Red House Garden
These are troubled times.  We are asking that the general public be on alert for suspicious behavior, especially unusual holes in the ground and plants, oftentimes expensive ones, that seem to be inexplicably looking unhealthy or dying.  Also alert the authorities if you find young trees that have been gnawed on near the base or girdled.

We shall now take questions from the press:

How can you be sure that this killer is not from the Mole family instead of a Vole?  Good question, since Moles also leave similar holes in the ground.  There is a Mole family in the area, but the killer does not come from there - Moles do not eat plant roots.  They eat worms, grubs, and nuts.

A mole has two types of tunnels:  shallow raised tunnels and deep tunnels, which often have a little mound of dirt near the entrance of them.  Neither raised tunnels nor mounds of dirt were found near the victims.

A raised tunnel right under the surface of the earth is from a Mole
Are you sure that this serial killer is male?  Perhaps it could be a female?  Actually, 'Jack the Nibbler' could in fact very well be 'Jacqueline the Nibbler'.   A female serial killer could lead to an even more serious problem - Voles are extremely prolific.  One pregnant Vole can theoretically result in over 100 more plant and tree killing Voles in under a year!  Ladies and Gentlemen, we could indeed see a hostile takeover of the Red House Garden by this Vole family before the year is out, unless action is taken.

Crime Scene - this plant has fallen over due to complete annihilation of its roots
What can we do?  How do we protect ourselves against this serial killer Vole?!  There are several options.  The most lethal involves putting mousetraps baited with apples or peanut butter under a flowerpot right near the tunnel entrance.  There are also different poisons you can use, though you have to be careful so that other animals don't get into the poison.  Or invite in a cat or other predator, such as an owl.  Mounting owl nest boxes will attract owls to your yard.

Authorities here at the Red Houose tend to be tenderhearted, so we do prefer the non-lethal means.  There are non-lethal traps, such as the Havahart ones, so that you can trap the Voles and release them far, far away.  You can also repel Voles with sprays or granules that contain Castor oil or Capsaicin, making the vegetation unpleasant tasting, and surround roots of plants with sharp gravel that Voles will not like to dig in.

Castor oil spray has worked well so far for the Red House Garden, though it needs to be reapplied after a lot of rain.
Voles are attracted to lots of mulch, brush piles, and other more natural areas that offer them protection from predators.  They also enjoy bird seed and fallen fruit that you might have in your garden.

Voles like mulched areas and areas under bird feeders. 
We're in trouble.
Once the voles have been repelled or taken from the area, it is a good idea to put a fence around the garden if possible, burying the fence about a foot down into the ground. 

Is there anyone who doesn't have to worry?  Are there any plants that the Vole will not target?  Daffodils are not in any danger, as they are poisonous and repelling to Voles.  Other plants that are not as likely to be victim to Voles are Goldenrod, Grape Hyacinth, Hellebores, Elephant Ears, Salvia, Siberian Irises, Mints, and plants in the Onion family. 

Though you never know with a killer such as this Vole.  This could spell big trouble.  We shall keep the public posted on any further developments.

Remembering the victims...

22 comments:

  1. Great story! So sorry about your plants. I guess we don't have voles here. Good thing. If we did, there would be eating from the top by deer and eating from the bottom by voles.

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    1. This is the first year I've had voles. I hope you don't get any! We do have deer, but they don't usually eat too much in my garden, having filled themselves with the other gardens in the neighborhood before they get to mine!

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  2. Love the story! Well done. One of your best defenses, though, would be the good offense of a rat snake or garter snake. A snake can follow the offender down his or her tunnel and dispense of the problem in situ!

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    1. So far I've only seen a little Brown Snake in my garden. I don't think he'll quite fit the bill - when I first saw him, I thought he was an extra large worm!

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  3. OH NO! I feel you pain! We have LOTS of voles. We also have snakes, owls and cats and NONE of them do their job properly. At least not enough to keep the population under control. We can't put out castor oil because of our furry friends. So, the only thing that has worked successfully is to use wire mesh every time we plant. This is really a pain but it works. We have moles too and the best way to get rid of them is to get rid of their food source (grubs...). I wish you the best of luck and hope you don't loose anymore plants to their demise! Loved how you wrote this post!

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    1. We hear owls at night, and we have some neighborhood cats as well, but none of them do their jobs well either! I really need to bury some wire mesh along our fence between us and the wooded lot next door.

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  4. Hi Indie
    How frustrating for you! Such beautiful plants - all wounded or killed by miserable little voles. We have voles too but the very fast hunter next door - a big fluffy cat named "Frankie" - seems to take care of the voles before they damage my plants. I'll check with my neighbour Cheryl to see if she can lend you Frankie for a week or two. Your problems should disappear :)
    Astrid

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    1. I definitely need him! We have some neighborhood cats, but they must be pretty well fed as they barely even glance at my bird feeders, much less hunt voles.

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  5. I don't know if this is a conspiracy but I have a theory. I hope the voles here are local. I would hate to think that any have been imported from gardens far away in Hava-a-heart traps. Sadly I have to report that an all too large number of lilies have to be added to the list of victims. Serious steps will have to be taken!

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    1. Oh no! The victims are piling up. That is one thing to note - if you catch a vole, release them far away from people or farms!

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  6. Very funny post, but it's hard to believe that something so little can do so much damage isn't it?

    I do hope that it either leaves, or stops the carnage.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

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    1. And they look so innocent, too! When the tenderhearted Mr. Red House saw a picture of a vole, he went something like 'Awwww, but they're so cute!' as if we'd want to take them in as pets or something!

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  7. OK, you might think I'm cruel. I had a similar hole tunneling under my Daylilies. I wasn't sure if it was from voles or chipmunks. But I stuffed it with onions--is that cruel? The Daylilies were not looking good, but after my onion treatment, they have perked right back up. Whew! Good luck--I know the frustration!

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    1. Ha, fumigation by onions! Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.. maybe I should try that one!

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  8. Hello, Indie!
    I'm first time in your blog. It's very pity that the killer came in your garden. And I'm glad some roses are nice now!
    Nadezda
    saint Petersburg
    Russia

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    1. Welcome! I am sad about how many plants this vole has killed. I do have some roses still, though!

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  9. I've been wondering what the difference is between a mole and a vole. Thank you for the information. I hope you get your vole problem solved.

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    1. I have both in my yard, so it's interesting to see the difference. We actually found a baby mole a year or so ago, but I still have yet to catch sight of my serial killer vole!

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  10. Indie,

    It looks like we are both writing about garden pests this week. I have cats who are always bringing me "presents". I will often see my cats watching something very intently in the garden, and I just Know that it is a vole. Thank goodness for the cats.

    Yael from Home Garden Diggers

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    1. I need better cats! The neighborhood cats are obviously too well fed or lazy to catch anything. I have a couple cats that only go onto our screened in porch. Even if I let them outside they probably wouldn't be much help, though - one doesn't have any front claws, and the other is a scaredy cat!

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  11. I guess every gardener has to put up with some kind of destruction from the animal kingdom at one time or another. The only time we see mice and voles is in the winter but cotton rats do their thing year round. It is complete destruction that I mind. A bit of nibbling here and there is OK. I have 2 havahart traps and I use them when I get desperate. Good luck with your vole problem.

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  12. No! Not Pat!!! boohoohoo :( I hope the Nibbler is a Jack, and that he is very ugly and not attractive AT ALL to any Jacquelines! My cats occasionally bring these (dead) to me. When I read posts such as this, I am very thankful for their killing ways.

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