Voles and caster bean oil as a deterrent?

Anyone have experience using caster bean oil to push out voles? Our small fenced garden is 70 ft by 40 ft. Voles have already killed our sour cherry and half girdled a peach tree. I have marked twenty tunnel exits.

I have read you spray a mixture of caster bean oil and dish soap on the ground. The idea is voles will move on. I was hoping to use my leaf blower with a venturi to fill the holes with the mix, but I can’t get enough suction. So maybe, pump sprayer and leaf blower. A little hot pepper is also supposed to help.

When done I can fill the holes and see if any open back up.

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I don’t have practical experience to share, but I’ve been grappling with how to deter voles from entering winter wrapped figs as I’m gearing up to plant some in my new high tunnel. Fedco has promoted the idea of using a mixture of gypsum latex paint and sand as a mechanical barrier and deterrent to chewing. I thought something of the sort slathered on the trunks, plus crushed stone around the base, plus some hot pepper garlic spray might be the secret sauce I need. It’s a lot of stuff to keep up with each year, but considering how pernicious the little buggers are, I figure belt and suspenders plus some elastic might be the best approach. This past winter I had one stow away inside one of my containers that I wintered in the basement (I don’t think he could/would have come in otherwise) He ate the roots off of a lot of the trees before I realized what was going on. I should have acted sooner when I saw soil being pulled out of the drain holes of the pots, but it wasn’t until I saw a tunnel under the crown of a tree with half of the roots eaten that I thought to set a trap

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I feel your pain! I lost a lot of plants to those beady eyed creatures.

I have tried pouring castor oil down the holes & saturating the ground around the garden with it. I used a gallon for a 20’x30’ area. Sad to say it was not effective. Maybe you need more?

After they wiped out half my potatoes, root pruned my asparagus, ate the onion roots(!), jerusalem artichokes…gone (not to mention the damage to my ornamental gardens) etc…I got serious and picked up Fasttrac Blox, a rodenticide.

It’s not organic or nice, but seriously effective. You just push a chunk of bait down the hole and that’s that. No more voles.

Good luck.

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I think your photo is a mole, not a vole. Did you use the stinky caster oil? They have unscented as well

Look into cayenne pepper… im a cheapskate and try to be environmentally friendly when i can.

Its $1.25 at Dollar Tree

Yeah, it was pretty nasty stuff. Still have a gallon left.

Here’s what a mole looks like (I have been eradicating them from my yard as well):

It looks like the small moles we have hear

voles have ears and bigger eyes
moles have pointy snouts


If you look at the rodent section in a field guide of North American mammals, there are tons of oddball little rodents with common names like shrew vole and vole shrew. We once had either one or the other burrow into our basement. Whatever it was exactly, it had a vaguely vole-like appearance but was nocturnal with beady little almost vestigial eyes and it made echolocating clicks and squeaks. It didn’t try to scurry away particularly fast like a vole would either, and when I caught it in a have a heart style trap, it died from shock very quickly. ID’ing it is what led me to dig into just how many different types of field rodents there are.

My apologies @Paddy, apparently you’re dealing with a different pest.

I think I may have a northern short-tailed shrew issue in my neck of the woods.

Caught this baby shrew when I was turning over the compost pile:

no apologies required, just as hobilus said, there are a bunch of critters out there.

Shrews eat voles, so they’re good to have around. They voracious predators with perhaps the fastest metabolism of any known mammal. They eat nearly their body weight in a day, Ive read. Hard to fathom. And apparently they have no compunctions about taking out a vole their size or bigger


No kidding! That’s fascinating! I assumed they were the ones munching on all my plant roots.

Yeah, they also eat mice and bugs of all sorts. If it really is a shrew (looks vole-ish to my eyes) be careful too because their bite is venomous! No joke

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I doubt he fools with critters this small, but @TNHunter seems to know as much about em as most of us put together. Maybe he can tell us some war stories, if he isn’t too busy grafting ‘simmons that is

I had no idea about shrews going after voles, I need to start breeding and releasing those suckers in my orchard.

I spent a lot of time this winter setting mouse traps baited with apple in vole tunnels near my apple trees. I ended up killing over 20 of them but probably just scratched the surface.

Much of what is out there on vole deterrence is geared to Meadow Voles. These are the above ground voles that girdle trees. My issue is with the underground version, Pine Voles, that are really hard to go after. These are the ones that leave your apple tree looking like a gnawed carrot instead of a rooted tree.

I have tried castor oil but it apparently dilutes fairly fast with rain. Poison may work in their tunnels, but it is hard to know if they are actually consuming it or if it is just decaying underground.

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This one had set up a “garage” entrance next to my Winter Jon apple tree.

They ignore peanut butter but love traps baited with apple.

I have them also. I took an apple tree like that and pushed it back into the ground in a new location. It grew new roots and survived although it didn’t grow much the first year. This year I’ll try planting garlic at the base of the trees in addition to setting traps.

I dont think we have voles down here in southern TN. If we do they are much kinder than your northern voles… i have never had anything gnaw on a fruit tree or berry bush like that.

I did have some trouble making rabbits last fall that wiped out a fresh up greens bed and nibbled on some blueberry and illini blackberry canes.

I caught them and ate them.

We do have moles and field mice, chip monks, squirrels…

Many years ago… i established a seed producing bed for ginseng… had 44 nice mature roots planted in the bed… and the first fall… 450-500 ginseng berries ripening.

Most ginseng berries have 2 seeds… some 1… some 3.

One saturday morning i checked those berries and a few were turning red… but just a few.

I decided to wait one more week to start picking them for planting…

The next Saturday they were all gone. Eaten by some small critter… field mice ? chipmonks ? Not sure but in a week… they ate every last one.

The next 12 falls… decon rat poison in a drain tile near the bed did the job. I just had to wipe them out… or they would wipe out my berries/seed.

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That was an Arkansas Black in the photo. I am glad to hear even severely gnawed trees stand a chance to come back. I will do this next time.

I did remove and pot a young Smoky Mtn Limbertwig that was mostly gnawed but still had small section of root remaining. This tree (so far) seems to be recovering and has leafed out.

I have 1/4" hardware cloth (galvanized) around trees now but am concerned that this will interfere with surface root development. Ideally, the hardware cloth would disintegrate as the tree became large enough to survive vole attacks on the root system. Has anyone had trees prosper long term encased in hardware cloth? Would 1/2" be the better choice jn the future to allow for larger roots to pass through?

That is some good-looking 'sang! I have some growing on my property too but don’t tell anyone…

I am surprised you don’t have Pine Voles over your way since you are in TN. I am in far Western North Carolina just a couple of counties from the TN line. My home is on the grounds of an old commercial apple orchard that was left to grow up in the 90s when the owner passed away. I think that may contibute to the vole issue as the voles no doubt have generational homes set up around the roots of surviving trees scattered near my 30 or so young apple trees.