Got Voles?

Voles are a quiet threat in fields, especially no-till.1 Voles are small rodents that are relatives of mice, with a stout, stocky body; a short tail, short legs, small eyes and ears (Figure 1).2 They are sometimes known as meadow mice or field mice in North America.1

Common vole. Figure 1. Common vole.

Voles feed on small seeds and seedlings in the spring of the year, and are especially present in areas of high residue, like no-till fields, and are most often found near the edges of fields where there is heavy cover for them to hide from predators. Though small, they have an enormous appetite for newly and actively growing plants and root tips and are known to feed 24 hours a day, year around.1 Therefore, a newly planted field of soybean or corn is a ready-made smorgasbord for them.

You are probably wondering why such a small critter is something to worry about. In a nutshell, voles are prolific. Females can produce from 5 to 10 litters per year, with an average of 5 young per litter. If conditions are right and predators are unable to keep the populations in control, several thousand voles could result from one female in a year.2


In a reduced tillage or no-till system, the best thing to do is scout fields in the spring for voles. The signs are tunnels that are close to or right at the surface (Figure 2). The tunnels and traffic areas are normally created over the winter months and are easy to see in the spring.

Vole trails. Picture courtesy of and used with the permission of David L. Clement, University of Maryland, Figure 2. Vole trails. Picture courtesy of and used with the permission of David L. Clement, University of Maryland,

A control tactic used by many farmers is baiting. This is simply spreading cracked corn or another grain on top of the planted field to provide an alternative food source for the voles while the planted crop is growing and developing. When the seedlings reach a few inches in height, the voles are unable to reach the growing tips to damage the plants.1

If populations are very high and damage to seedlings is evident, the use of a rodenticide is warranted. Toxic baits are classified as General Use Pesticides (GUP) or Restricted Use Pesticides (RUP). General Use Pesticides may be purchased without a pesticide applicator’s license. Restricted Use Pesticides may be purchased and used only by Certified Pesticide Applicators.3 Always follow your local and State guidance when purchasing or applying any pesticides to your fields.

Derek Crompton


1Leer, S. 2002. Voles don’t eat like a mouse in no-till fields, warns specialist. Purdue News. Purdue University.

2Gibb, T. Voles (remember the V). Turfgrass Science at Purdue University.

3Vantassel, S.M., Hygnstrom, S.E., and Ferraro, D.M. 2011-Revised. Controlling Vole Damage. G887. NebGuide. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Websites verified 2/21/23

Legal Statements

ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Performance may vary, from location to location and from year to year, as local growing, soil and weather conditions may vary. Growers should evaluate data from multiple locations and years whenever possible and should consider the impacts of these conditions on the grower’s fields.

Channel® and the Arrow Design® and Seedsmanship At Work® are registered trademarks of Channel Bio, LLC. Bayer and Bayer Cross are registered trademarks of Bayer Group. Some of the product(s) discussed herein are restricted use pesticide(s) and may not be registered in all states. The distribution, sale, or use of an unregistered pesticide is a violation of federal and/or state law and is strictly prohibited. Check with your local dealer or product representative for the product registration status in your state. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. ©2023 Bayer Group. All rights reserved.

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