- Lawn And Garden Holes: What Is Digging Holes In My Yard?
- Lawn and Garden Holes
- Identifying Holes through Process of Elimination
- Identifying Holes per Time of Year
- Animals Digging In Your Lawn
- BlogPests That Dig Up Your Yard
- Do possums dig holes or burrow underground?
- Who’s that digging in my yard: Skunks, raccoons or moles?
- How to Get Rid of Cicada Killers
- What dug that small hole in the yard?
- How to Identify Snake Holes in the Yard
- Recognize The Habitat
- Look for Shed Snake Skins
- Look for Feces
- How Do Snakes Bore Holes in the Ground?
- Why Do Snakes Dig Holes?
- Is a Snake Hole Considered a Nest or a Den?
- Do Snakes Go Underground?
- Are Snake Burrows Only Found in the Ground?
- What Do Snake Holes Look Like?
- Snake Holes vs. Gopher Holes
- What Other Animals Live in Holes?
- What Should I Do if I Find Snake Holes?
- How Do I Get a Snake to Come Out of Its Hole?
- How to Fill Snake Holes in the Yard
- How Do I Prevent Snakes from Creating Holes in My Yard?
- Related posts:
Lawn And Garden Holes: What Is Digging Holes In My Yard?
Size does matter. If you are experiencing holes in your yard, there are a variety of things that could be causing them. Animals, children at play, rotten roots, flooding and irrigation problems are the usual suspects. Small holes in yards are generally from insects, invertebrates or burrowing rodents. Larger holes have more catastrophic causes as a rule and the origin must be discovered and the issue repaired. Use a sleuthing process to answer, “What is digging holes in my yard?” Then learn about identifying holes and fixing the problem.
Lawn and Garden Holes
Not only is size an important clue when identifying holes, but so is location. Holes throughout the lawn are usually sourced to small rodents, like voles or moles, or insects.
Mole holes are covered by a hill of earth, while a vole hole is not. Birds make holes in sod as they search for food and earthworms make small little holes the size of pencils to aerate the soil and provide air to their tunnels.
Some wasps and other insects lay eggs in sod, which produces holes. It might be beneficial to excavate small holes in yards to see if there are eggs or if
there is a tunnel. This will provide you with more information so you can decide what approach to take next.
Identifying Holes through Process of Elimination
The home gardener seeking to find out what is digging holes in my yard may have to cast an eye to pets or children. This may seem obvious, but if you have a roving pooch in the neighborhood, it might be a digger. Children also find it fun to make tunnels and fort in dirt, which often requires excavation.
Once these obvious causes have been eliminated, it is time to focus on site. If the problem isn’t holes throughout the lawn, but holes in the soil or garden, there are other possibilities. Wild animal activities create holes in the garden. Birds, squirrels and other animals dig in soil looking for insects or food they previously buried. Animals also burrow into soil and nest underground.
Areas near tree snags and roots that have holes could be the burrows of rats or chipmunks. Larger holes may host armadillos or even groundhogs, which leave holes a foot across. Watch in the early morning and evening for signs of these animals.
Wet or boggy soils may be the home of crawfish, which leave 2- to 4-inch tall mud towers with a broad hole at the top. If you want them off your property, trapping or professional animal control services are likely your best option.
Identifying Holes per Time of Year
Insect activity and life cycles are prevalent in soil and sod. Contemplate lawn and garden holes by season if you suspect insect invasions.
Earthworms are most active in spring and when soils are moist. They leave a granular tower of soil around their 1-inch holes. Many other insects lay their eggs in soil and the larvae hatch in spring, leaving pinprick sized holes.
Post winter, roots from trees may fail and cause cave ins. Diverted streams or other underground water can create holes. When you turn on your sprinkler system in spring, you may find a pipe has sprung a leak and will cause a boggy fissure.
As you can see there are many possible causes for a hole in the landscape. Follow the clues and see where they lead.
Animals Digging In Your Lawn
The night “critters” may be cute, but they can be very destructive. Usually, they are just searching for food or they are returning to search a site that has had a plentiful food source. Raccoons will “roll-up” a lawn while searching for grubs and other larval insects. Skunks make small individual holes when they search for insect larva. Squirrels will dig holes when they burry food. Raccoons and skunks work only at night. Squirrels work only during daylight hours, so if holes appear overnight you know it’s not a squirrel. And then there are gophers and moles…but that’s another story.
The first symptom for grubs in the lawn will be the appearance of brown spots (dead lawn grass) two or three inches in diameter. If the spots increase in size and even join, these are probably grubs enlarging their feeding area. To verify grubs, make a solution of 4 Tablespoons of liquid dish detergent (Dawn, Palmolive, etc.) in two gallons of water and sprinkle it over an affected area of one yard square. Sprinkle some on the brown area and some on the adjoining green area. If there are grubs present, they will come to the surface within five minutes. This will not kill them; only bring them up to the surface.
If the dead grass areas do not increase in size and the live grass around its circumference increases in height, the cause was dog urine.
For raccoons and skunks, use Beneficial Nematodes or Bayer Grub Control to get rid of the grubs. The non-chemical solution to prevent damage by raccoons and skunks is to treat the area with Beneficial Nematodes. These microscopic roundworms will hunt down, penetrate, and kill soil-dwelling insect larvae (grubs). They will remain effective for 2 years and are safe for people, pets, earthworms, and the environment. Do not use follow-up insecticides; they will kill the nematodes.
The Beneficial Nematodes should be applied in March or April as the ground begins to warm up. They can be applied until September, but after that only the grub control would be effective.
Chemical insecticides such as granulated Bayer Grub Control (also available as a hose end, liquid spray) will also rid the soil of insect pests and larva. This insecticide should be applied once each year; about April first.
Repellents, such as Coyote Urine, used to discourage animals from digging in lawns are not effective. We have noticed, if the raccoons live in urban areas away from natural predators, they don’t recognize the repellents. Raccoons and skunks may return to your yard and dig, even though you have killed the insects, if they found food there previously. Be patient, they will soon give up.
Squirrels are not easy to get rid of, especially if one of your neighbors is feeding them peanuts. Unfortunately, squirrels are sometimes blamed for damage done by other animals.
A temporary solution to prevent raccoons, skunks, and squirrels from digging in lawns is to cover the perimeter of the area with Ross Garden Netting. The animals evidently are confused and irritated by feeling the plastic net underfoot. The netting will have to be removed when the lawn is mowed, but can be used all summer or until the Beneficial Nematodes or Grub Control ‘take hold’.
Some gardeners have had good luck deterring the night critters by placing a radio in the middle of the lawn tuned to an all night talk program. If the sprinklers come on at night, cover the radio with a big trash bag.
A secondary benefit from the use of Beneficial Nematodes or the Grub Control is that they will prevent many of the brown spots which appear in the lawn during mid to late summer because most of these brown spots are due to insect damage.
BlogPests That Dig Up Your Yard
All kinds of wildlife pests can be frustrating, but digging pests are a special kind of frustrating. Digging pests can inflict significant lawn damage, ruin gardens and plants, and even pose serious electrical or plumbing hazards. The damage inflicted by wildlife can have long-term consequences for the health and safety of your whole yard. Plus, it just looks bad. You work so hard to keep your lawn pretty! The best way to deal with lawn damage is to prevent it from happening in the first place. To do that, you have to know your enemy. Your enemies, in this case, are the wildlife pests that commonly dig up lawns like yours. Here’s who the usual suspects are and how you can tell which is guilty.
Moles are small, insect-eating mammals that live in subterranean tunnels. They hunt for food by expanding their tunnels and consuming the worms, insects, and invertebrates they pull from the ground. A lot of mole activity occurs after rain, when earthworms rise to the surface to soak up moisture. Mole dig tunnels very close to the surface of the ground, where their digging disrupts roots, grass, and soil. Moles only dig underground, so you often won’t be able to actually see the holes moles create. Moles do often leave behind ridges in soil as they push it upward while looking for food, however. If you find trails of displaced dirt winding through your yard, it’s probably because moles tunneled beneath the surface. Moles also kill the root systems of the plants they tunnel beneath as they dig. If you have moles, you might notice winding lines of dead grass where they tunneled.
Also called field or meadow mice, voles are tiny mouse relatives that are excellent burrowers. Just like moles, voles spend so much time either underground or hiding that you’ll almost never see them. Voles largely subsist on the stems and blades of grass. They also burrow from the ground directly into the root systems of trees and other plants. Most of the digging they do happens when they’re trying to get at underground tubers or bulbs. Unlike moles, voles don’t leave any mounds behind. Instead, they carve pathways through grass and other foliage by eating their way through it. They use these pathways to make their way through your yard to get at food and cover. You may also notice gnawing around the roots or bases of the plants in your yard. Voles are particularly fond of mulch, because it’s easy to dig through to get at root systems. If you notice disturbed mulch around your gardens, voles could be your culprit.
Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are a species of marmot that construct burrows in dry soil. Unlike moles or voles, they frequently venture out of their burrows, so you may actually see them in your yard. Groundhogs are solitary herbivores. They build burrows near their foraging ground and then never venture far from that territory. Groundhogs also use their burrows to hibernate and raise their young. Generally, groundhogs will abandon their burrows if threatened, but if cornered they can be dangerous. Groundhogs may not tunnel or dig repeatedly like moles and voles, but they do create rather large burrows. Groundhog burrows can be 8 to 66 feet long, with winding chambers and multiple levels. These burrows can damage the surrounding plant life or even compromise the ground around them. Groundhogs build multiple exits out of their chambers. You may be able to spot these exits by finding piles of displaced dirt. Groundhogs move quite a bit of dirt to make their burrows, so these exits may be easily noticeable.
Skunks dig two different kinds of holes, for two different reasons. First, digging is the primary way skunks hunt for the grubs and lawn insects they feed on. When skunks dig to hunt for grubs, they create small, cone-shaped holes only a few inches deep. These are called “skunk holes”. Skunks dig skunk holes one at a time while searching areas for food systematically. You might see a growing series of skunk holes working their way across your lawn. Skunks also dig burrows to live, raise their young, and hibernate. These burrows are smaller than groundhog burrows and usually only have one entrance. Skunks prefer to build these burrows beneath pre-existing structures such as decks, porches, or trees. The entrance to skunk burrows may peek out partially from beneath a structure. Skunks might also use an abandoned burrow or kick another animal out of their burrow instead. Skunks may react defensively if you startle them, so don’t approach skunk burrows if possible. These are the most common animals that could dig up your lawn, but they aren’t the only ones. If your lawn damage doesn’t seem to match the descriptions here, don’t give up! No matter what pest happens to be digging up your lawn, there is a solution. That solution? Varment Guard. Give us a call anytime you have lawn damage, and we’ll find the culprit and bring them to justice. Don’t let some pest rip up your hard work any more; call today!
Do possums dig holes or burrow
Need wildlife removal in your town? Now serving over 500 US locations – updated for 2018
Possums might look like quite intimidating creatures, but they’re usually quite docile animals, and good to have around also. Not in your home, of course, because they’re wild animals and carry / spread disease, but out there – in the wild – they are actually very good creatures for the environment. Their body temperature is much lower than most other mammals, and this makes it difficult for certain diseases to thrive. Rabies, for example, is a concern for most mammals, but possums have shown to rarely / never carry the virus, or pass it on to humans or other animals.
Possums are often blamed for digging holes in the garden, and although they are keen diggers, they are not the usual culprits when you come across lawn or garden holes. They might have a little dig for the insects they enjoy eating – slugs, snails, worms, beetles, cockroaches, etc., but these won’t be deep holes. If you do find deep holes, they are likely caused by an entirely different animal.
Possums DO NOT dig dens or burrows underground. They do live in them though. They wait for another animal to abandon their home before moving right on in. They actually prefer to live in the trees because it is safer up there. In more residential areas, they will set up home in attics because of the up-high, tree resemblance. They have also been known to nest in garages and other outbuildings, as well as chimneys and sheds. They can create quite a lot of destruction in a short space of time too, including defecating all over the place. This is not only smelly, unsightly, and quite frankly, disgusting, it can also spread disease. Some of these diseases can affect you, your family, and even your household pets.
We can answer: Do possums hiss?
Speaking of your household pets, although possums are quite docile creatures, well known for ‘playing dead’, they will attack if they are cornered or feel threatened, particularly if the playing dead action hasn’t worked. You could face expensive vet bills as a result of a pet-wild animal interaction, and that’s before you think about other types of destruction – culling of chickens and their eggs, ruining ductwork and insulation, pulling apart bird feeders and scaring off the birds you’re trying to attract, knocking over your garbage can and making a mess of your front or back garden … In short, trying to live with these creatures can be a nightmare.
Find out How To Get Rid Of Opossums Without Killing Them
Despite probably not being the culprit behind the holes in your lawn, you still don’t want these critters to get too close. You should make sure that your home is wild animal proof, and also that you are not attracting unwanted attention by having a messy yard with food left lying around all over the place. It takes just a few modifications t ensure your home is well protected, and it will be worth it. Wild animal invaders are usually hard work to get rid of, and that’s before you think about the stress, cost of removal, and the cost of repair work too.
For more information, you may want to click on one of these guides that I wrote:
How much does opossum removal cost? – get the lowdown on prices.
How to get rid of opossums – my main opossum removal info guide.
Example opossum trapping photographs – get do-it-yourself ideas.
Opossum job blog – learn from great examples of opossum jobs I’ve done.
Who’s that digging in my yard: Skunks, raccoons or moles?
“Fee, fie, fo, fum. I see the dirt from some furry bum.” Many have walked into the yard and found perplexing piles of soil in their lawn or flower beds. They want to know what critter made the heap and are worried that it means something worse is going wrong. There are several animals that are common yard visitors. Keep in mind that the usual motivation for digging up yards comes down to two things: food and lodging. The time of the year makes a difference in the frequency of digging. Often, more damage occurs in the fall and spring. Michigan State University Extension hotlines receive many calls at certain times of the year about mystery mounds.
In the fall, animals are trying to pick up as many calories as possible to make it through the winter. The fatter they are, the better chance they have of living long and prospering. In the spring, these same animals are trying to regain weight, especially if there has been a great deal of snow cover or extremely cold weather. Food hunting is “job one.” It is possible to identify the digger by the clues left at the scene of the crime. Let’s look at the three main suspects.
Shallow holes in the ground, surrounded by a ring of loosened soil
Skunks are often the cause of these clues. The soil disruption happens overnight because skunks are nocturnal feeders. The hole is approximately the size of a skunk nose. The skunk presses its nose to the soil and digs with its long, front claws. Skunky knows that just below the surface is a protein-rich treat, just waiting to be harvested. There can be so many holes that they coalesce into an area the looks like it has been tilled.
Striped skunk. Photo credit: Alfred Viola, Northeastern University, Bugwood.org
In the fall and all during the growing season, skunks are on the patrol for earthworms, grubs and a variety of soil insects. Their diets also include crayfish, small animals, birds and their eggs, frogs and turtle eggs – if they can find them. Skunks enjoy a diet that extends into fallen fruit like mulberries, raspberries, cherries and grapes. They don’t jump and cannot climb to any extent, so they work close to the ground.
Chunks of sod that have been ripped up and flipped over
Raccoons enjoy diets that are almost identical to skunks, but raccoons use their front paws like hands. They will pull and flip pieces of sod. This behavior is quite common on newly laid sod or grass with shallow roots. Ripping and tearing is easier. Since skunks and raccoons can be feeding during the night in the same area, you may wake to a powerful skunk odor. The gentle skunk is being harassed by the backyard bully raccoon.
Mounds of loose soil on the lawn
Moles leave piles of soil on the surface because they are pushing them up from below. There are no visible holes. In warm weather, the star-nosed mole works about 6 inches or more below the surface and periodically pushes soil up to make an air vent. At the same time, the eastern mole is tunneling just below the surface and you can walk on its created trail.
During the winter when the ground is partially frozen, both kinds of moles will push up piles of soil when they are active. They are feeding on earthworms and possibly grubs and soil insects. For more information on moles, see the MSU Extension article “Moles in the lawn.”
See my article on what smart gardeners can do to discourage these dirty devils, “Reduce lawn and garden damage caused by moles, skunks and raccoons.” Notice that it is “discourage” rather than “eliminate.” It’s tough to fight Mother Nature and her gang.
Related MSU Extension articles
- “Preserve landscapes and gardens by discouraging deer, woodchucks and rabbits”
- “Reduce lawn and garden damage caused by moles, skunks and raccoons”
How to Get Rid of Cicada Killers
Cicada killers are large wasps that are commonly found outdoors around residential properties. They create holes that tunnel into the ground, taking preference to dry, sandy soil in places such as patches of grass and dry dirt around the yard. Their presence can be alarming due to their large size, but they are not harmful to humans or pets unless disturbed. Cicada killers are beneficial to our environment as they reduce the cicada population, lessening the harm and damage done to nearby vegetation. If you believe that you are seeing cicada killers or holes in your yard, read below to learn more about their identification, habits, and behaviors, and what you can do.
What does a cicada killer look like?
Adult cicada killers are typically 1-2 inches in length. Their size relative to other wasps is very large, which is usually why people are afraid of them. Cicadas themselves range between ¾-2 inches in length which is very similar to the cicada killer. The paralyzing venom of a cicada killer gives them the opportunity to catch a cicada mid-air and carry to their nest to eat.
Cicada killers are big wasps with orange wings and a black body marked with horizontal yellow bands. Their unique coloring set them aside from other flying pests that nest in the ground.
Cicadas congregate in bushes and trees around residential homes, which attracts cicada killers. The females search tree trunks and lower limbs for cicadas. The wasp then stings its prey and drags it or glides with it to the burrow. There on average, each nest consists of 15 egg-shaped side chambers, each containing an egg as well as 1-3 paralyzed cicadas. Depending on the number of cicadas in its cell, the larva feeds for 4-10 days until only the cicada’s outer shell remains. During the fall, the larva spins a silken case, shrinks, and prepares to overwinter. Only one generation occurs each year.
How can I tell if I have cicada killers?
Cicada killers are commonly misidentified as other flying insects that nest in the ground such as yellow jackets and ground bees. They create a series of tunnels in the ground marked by a hill of dirt with a hole in the center, similar to yellow jackets and ground bees. The hole serves as an entry point for the female cicada killer to access her nest and tends to her larvae. Cicada killers have a preference for dry, sandy soil in exposed sunlight, making suburban homes a perfect breeding ground. Common places for cicada killer holes are dry patches in your lawn where dirt may be exposed, under bushes, or within the dirt in between your lawn and sidewalk. They make their appearance in the late summer months of July and August, making audible buzzing and visible free-flying.
Photo Credit: Princeton Nature News
What bug is making holes in my yard?
Yellow jackets are social wasps that nest within the ground. Unlike cicada killers, hundreds of yellow jackets can live within a single nest. They burrow into the ground and create their colony, rapidly multiplying and becoming very active. Yellow jackets are constantly coming and going out of their nest in the ground, one by one. If you see this type of activity, it’s likely that you see yellow jackets.
They are black and yellow like cicada killers but are much more slender and about ½ inch in length. These wasps can be aggressive and should be left to the pest control professionals when it comes to eradication. Treating yellow jackets on your own can force them to relocate into wall voids in human-made structures such as residential homes.
Photo Credit: bugguide.net
There are several types of ground bees that exist in the United States. Most abundant is Colletes inaequalis which you can find in our immediate New Jersey and Pennsylvania region. These ground bees are most active from April-July, which lines up directly before cicada killer activity beginning in July. Measuring only 9-13mm long, cicada killers are typically more than double their size. Like cicada killers, ground bees are solitary insects that live most literally, in solidarity within one nest. Several nests can be visible nearby as multiple females often create their tunnels near each other. They prefer sandy soils and south-facing slopes when choosing a spot to create their nests.
Are cicada killers dangerous?
Cicada killers are not harmful towards humans unless provoked. They generally do not have interest in humans and are not motivated to sting them. Cicada killers are what is called “solitary wasps,” meaning that they don’t live in large numbers within a single nest like many “social wasps” such as yellow jackets. Only one female lives within each hole without a male so there is no innate need to protect a queen.
Are there any DIY options?
Cooper does not suggest that you attempt to treat cicada killer activity on your own. Without professional pest control intervention, it is most likely that the infestation will persist. Prevention is the key to avoiding cicada killer populations at your home. Let the grass in your yard grow a little bit longer in July and August when cicada killers are most likely to invade. Perform visual inspections on a regular basis, looking out for their holes.
How can Cooper help?
The damage that cicada killers cause is only the small mounds of dirt around your lawn. A single cicada killer will only create one hole. However multiple cicada killers have been known to create their nests nearby. If you are bothered by their presence, Cooper Pest Solutions offers two options for the best cicada killer service in the area.
One-Time Cicada Killer Service
If you would like to treat your home for cicada killer activity, Cooper can provide a single treatment to eliminate the existing females from your property. Because male cicada killers do not create nests in the ground, there is no guarantee that the males will stop free-flying. The holes in the ground created by the females will be treated individually. It is important to note that this treatment can only be performed once to treat existing holes. Cooper cannot guarantee this service beyond the initial treatment because new holes can be created from new cicada killer populations that find their way on to your property.
Home Intensive Program
Cooper’s Home Intensive Program is a quarterly general maintenance service that targets over 20 common household pests including cicada killers. This program provides treatment for your property with the same application of the One-Time Cicada Killer Service
The Home Intensive Program is both a reactive and preventative pest control program. One of our state-certified technicians will visit your home on a quarterly basis to carefully examine for any pest activity. If pest activity exists, they will treat for all insects covered under the program. Unlimited service calls are free in between the quarterly visits if you experience pest activity.
Contact us by filling out the form to the right or give us a call at 1-800-949-2667 for more information and to receive a free no-obligation pest estimate.
“Are you the extension agent? You’re not a man,” the caller’s voice boomed out of the telephone.
Yessir, it was a disappointment to my father, too. Oops, we’re not off to much of a start, I caught myself thinking.
”Well, maybe you can help me. I’ve got hundreds of little holes in my lawn, and I want to know what they are.”
So much for the situation improving. He had just posed one of the most frequently asked and least answerable questions we hear. There are many possible causes of holes in lawn, but only one way to be sure of any one individual’s problem: either walk through the lawn or sit at the window until you discover the culprit.
Holes are often are caused by the beneficial activities of insects and earthworms. Though the holes are regarded as unsightly by people, the burrowing of ants and beetles, and the tunnelling of earthworms helps to aerate and loosen the soil. Ant holes are tiny and may or may not have mounds of soil surrounding them. Earthworm holes are larger and frequently surrounded by soil granules (castings), rather than fine soil.
A common cause of holes in lawns is from birds feeding on white grubs, sod webworms, or other soil insects. Again, the birds are providing a service through natural bug control, though it may be difficult to feel much gratitude when you’re looking at a lawn surface that suddenly resembles a Chinese checker board.
Holes about the size of a dime to a quarter, occurring from May through July, may be caused by May, June and Japanese beetles maturing in the soil then digging their way out to begin feeding on flowers, vegetables and shrubs. Their indiscriminate feeding habits will make you wish they’d stayed underground.
In the summer, metallic blue and black scoliid wasps hover above the lawn selecting sites to dig in and parasitize grubs in the soil. Later, when the eggs they laid in the grubs have hatched and matured, the new generation of beneficial wasps will emerge. These wasps can occur in great enough numbers to frighten people away from mowing their grass, but the insects are not aggressive towards people unless they are handled.
Towards mid to late summer, cicadas begin to emerge from the soil, leaving about an exit hole behind them. Often referred to as locusts, these insects have up to a 17 year life cycle, depending on the species. However, some locusts will emerge every year, as the cycles overlap and since there’s at least two species of cicadas in our area.
Shortly after cicadas emerge, the enormous cicada-killer wasp appears on the scene. This bright yellow and black wasp easily measures up to 2 inches long, and is very stout. It needs to be, since it’s purpose in life is to sting and paralyze cicadas, pry them off their tree, then go bury them in your lawn. The cicada is stuffed into a hole excavated earlier by the wasp, then the wasp lays an egg on its prey before flying off to repeat the process.
Of course, there are nonbeneficial causes of holes in the lawn. Your neighbor’s cat somehow mistaking the velvet surface of your turf as a kitty litter box has little positive value. Voles, those tunneling cousins of field mice, make little quarter-sized holes everywhere they surface to see what’s going on in the world. The beetles mentioned before do nothing good for you above or below the ground.
Though there are even more possible causes of holes in the lawn, the bottom line is that each individual case is probably best solved by the homeowner taking a little time to stop and observe the astounding activity going on in his yard, then drawing his own conclusion. You might find it a fascinating experience.
* Sargent is a Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension agent in Newport News. Newport News residents desiring more gardening information can call the service at 599-8899; in Hampton, call 727-1117; in York County, call 898-3730; and in James City County, call 566-1367.
What dug that small hole in the yard?
Overnight, a very strange dirt mound appeared in the planting bed next to the kitchen door. I noticed it immediately because the large pile of yellow sand clay granules contrasted well with my ebony bark mulch.
Off to one side was a half-inch diameter hole, so I knew right away some creature had come visiting. But which one? Too small for a mole – possibly a vole or field mouse. Was it friend or foe?
After I brushed the plants aside, what happened next shocked me…
I see a critter almost the size of a golf ball with wings and red legs emerge and toss aside more dirt!
Mystery solved – we have a Cicada Killer Wasp.
Don’t be alarmed. In spite of its formidable size and burrowing habit, this wasp is unusually docile and has virtually no sting. Their venom is adapted to paralyzing insect prey, and (unless you’re highly allergic) not causing pain to pets or people.
If a cicada killer wasp burrow isn’t in an awkward place, best to leave them alone. Mother Nature uses Cicada killer wasps to manage the cicada insect population.
Cicada killer wasps are more of a nuisance and are considered yard pests for aesthetic reasons. The effects of their burrows are short-lived, and disappear with rain or watering. Cicada killer wasps emerge in July and August, mate and then dig burrows. Your property is attractive probably because it’s south-facing, well-drained and with large trees nearby.
Unhealthy lawns can also attract colonies of burrows further smothering the grass. The Extension folks say adequate lime and fertilizer applications with frequent watering promote a thick growth of turf and can usually eliminate a cicada killer wasp infestation in one or two seasons. (Their digging actually benefits by aerating the soil.)
How to control Cicada killer wasps the green way.
Still want to remove them? Don’t reach for the chemicals. I believe you are in more danger from pesticides applied to your yard to kill the wasps than from the Cicada killer wasps themselves.
Like me, if you catch their activity early, drive off the adults by flooding the infested area heavily with water, then placing a dowel in the hole (so you can find it again to add more water if needed). While Cicada killer wasps only inhabit disturbed places, they do not nest in soggy soils.
If you have an established burrow, wait until dark (they’re home for the night) and pour boiling water down the burrow (avoid spilling it on yourself of course). This can kill the adults, larvae, and pupae.
I’ve also heard diatomaceous earth can be a cheap and otherwise harmless insecticide. During the day (when the parents are out hunting cicada’s) use a turkey baster to shoot it down into the burrow. It kills by dehydrating the adult.
Cicadas (incorrectly called “locusts”) emerge from the soil every 2 to 17 years, but depending on the region, some are active every year. In May or June, the nymphs crawl to the trunk of a tree or some other object and cling there. Soon the insect molts into the winged adult stage, leaving behind the cast skin. Adults are active during daylight hours. (Which when the wasps hunt them.)
Cicada-killer wasp populations vary depending on the hatch or release of cicadas. It took me 50 years to see one, but this wasp occurs in all states east of the Rocky Mountains.
Got a Cicada killer wasp encounter you want to share? Type it below.
How to Identify Snake Holes in the Yard
Holes in your backyard could be the openings to snake burrows. What exactly does this mean? Holes provide the perfect nesting spot for snakes and other wildlife. In most cases, snakes inhabit burrows that have been abandoned my other animals, such as small mammals, gopher tortoises, and other vertebrates. If you think you may have snakes around your property, the presence of holes may provide harborage for them. Here is some information that may help you identify potential snake holes.
Recognize The Habitat
Different species of snakes inhabit different environments. For example, cottonmouth snakes prefer water-laden environments like drainage ditches, ponds, lakes and streams. Garter snakes prefer tall grass, marshland (near water), forested areas. While in these environments, snakes may seek shelter in tree hollows, under logs, leaf litter, underground holes, rock outcroppings and/or burrows that have been abandoned by other animals. Here, they hunt for food, lay eggs, hide from predators, and seek shelter for thermoregulation. Thus, if you find a snake slithering into a hole in your backyard, you may have issues with other burrowing wildlife issues, as well. Your backyard, basement and/or porch may provide an area of shelter for snakes.
Look for Shed Snake Skins
Snakes are known for regularly shedding their scaly skin and this can occur once per month in actively growing snakes. This process allows snakes to repair damaged skin and get rid of parasites. When preparing to shed, snakes may rub against rocks and/or sticks to help break off the skin. Snake skins can show details of the snake’s previous scale patterns and body shape, including its eyes. It may be difficult to locate snake skins, though, as they’re usually eaten by rodents or insects within a matter of days. If you spot a snake during its shedding period or any other time, leave it alone. Snakes are easily irritated during the shedding process and may bite if they are threatened.
Look for Feces
Like all wildlife, snakes excrete waste as feces. To help identify snake feces, it’s important to recall a snake’s diet. These often include insects and small mammals, such as mice and rats as well as smaller reptiles. As such, you may find traces of prey in the feces, including hair and bone fragments. The size of the feces depends on the length and size of the snake. In general, snake feces appear as thick, pasty, dark-brown smears with a white chalky deposit at one end. Like their shed skins, snake feces may biodegrade relatively quickly.
Snakes are nervous creatures and want to stay out of the way of predators. As most predators of these reptiles are mammals or birds, staying underground is a significantly safer option. This is why snakes often prefer to live in holes and burrows.
Snakes rarely do dig holes. Instead, they lay claim to holes that were created by other animals. Sometimes they eat the residents, or scare them away. A snake may find a hole that has been abandoned.
We will cover everything you may need to know, including how to identify and fill a snake hole. We’ll also look at other animals that you may find living underground
How Do Snakes Bore Holes in the Ground?
Snakes will not dig a hole by themselves. They are not capable of doing so. The best a snake will be able to do is burrow through the very loose soil, or piles of leaves.
This doesn’t mean that snakes won’t dwell within holes, though. Whenever one of these reptiles comes across a hole, they claim it for themselves. This can make it harder to identify a snake hole. It could have been created by another digging or burrowing animal.
How a snake claims these holes depends on how brave and aggressive the breed is. Some snakes will eat the existing animal. Others will wait nearby, and act threateningly. Particularly shy snake breeds, however, will only claim an empty, abandoned animal hole through fear or reprisals.
Why Do Snakes Dig Holes?
- Protection from Predators. Even though many people fear snakes, they are prey to many other wild animals. These reptiles feel very exposed when moving around the open, especially to birds of prey. A snake will have no chance of protecting itself from a swooping hawk, for example. For this reason, they like to stay out of sight of a potential predator.
- Many snakes have evolved to blend into their surroundings. Desert-dwelling snakes have scales that are the color of sand. Likewise, forest-based snakes are almost invisible when surrounded by leaves. This means that snakes can hide in animal holes and wait for prey to approach. This, again, prevents a snake from exposing itself to predators while hunting.
- After a snake has eaten, it can take up to a week to digest a meal. This means that the snake will look to find a small and secure place to rest. The same also applies to a snake that is laying eggs, or giving birth. A snake will be vulnerable during these times, and will want to hide away.
- Protection from the Sun. They may retreat to a hole in the ground after basking in the sun. They can retain this warmth while remaining safe.
Is a Snake Hole Considered a Nest or a Den?
If just one snake is living in a hole, it’s called a nest. On the rare occasions that multiple snakes share one hole, it’s called a den. The latter is most likely to happen during the brumation season.
Do Snakes Go Underground?
Snakes generally prefer to remain a few inches underground, working through existing holes and tunnels. If a snake goes any deeper than this, they risk losing their food source. Most snakes prefer to lay in wait for prey, striking when something crosses their path.
However, when the winter arrives, snakes may head a little deeper underground to hibernate. As snakes are cold-blooded, they struggle to remain warm during the coolest months of the year. Staying underground until the spring keeps them alive.
Are Snake Burrows Only Found in the Ground?
Not necessarily. Snakes also set up home in holes bored into stone walls, or logs with small holes. If animals are capable of making a gap, a snake may claim it as their own.
Some snakes may climb trees and clamber inside a hole. This is not common, though. It can take a snake quite some time to climb a tree if it doesn’t come naturally to the breed.
What Do Snake Holes Look Like?
As we have established, a snake hole could look like any other animal’s burrow. However, many signs indicate a snake is living within the hole:
- If the entry point is narrow, it could be home to a snake. These creatures like to feel snug and secure. A snake is at their happiest when their backbones brush against the top of a hole.
- The entrance of a snake hole will be clear and undisturbed. This means that there will be no spider webs growing over it, or piles of leaves.
Snake Holes vs. Gopher Holes
Snakes will often set up home in gopher holes, as the sizes are largely compatible.
This can work well for humans, as gophers can be hugely disruptive. If snakes chase them off, or even eat them, it can only be a good thing.
What Other Animals Live in Holes?
According to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, the following animals dig up green turf:
- Rabbits and Hares
Take a look at the summary of animals holes listed above. You can glean insights into what animal may be leaving their mark by measuring the diameter.
You will also need to observe what may emerge from the hole. There is every chance that a snake will lay claim to these holes themselves.
What Should I Do if I Find Snake Holes?
Most snakes in the USA are non-venomous. Such breeds are a valuable part of your yard’s ecosystem, as they will control the pest population. Remember, snakes eat insects and rodents.
Don’t blindly place your hand in the hole as it could be a copperhead snake hole rather than that of a garter snake. Keep your cats and dogs away, too. Even though the bite of a non-venomous snake won’t kill you, it can be painful. Dogs are more at risk.
If you want help dealing with the snake holes found on your property, call animal control.
How Do I Get a Snake to Come Out of Its Hole?
Just follow these steps:
- Apply a heat source, such as a hot water bottle, at the mouth of the hole. The snake will sense this, and be attracted to the warmth.
- Lay food at the mouth of the hole, such as a dead rodent. It may not be hygienic, but it’s effective. Even a snake that isn’t hungry will not be able to resist investigating food.
- Place a sizable but shallow body of water beside the hole. Snakes get thirsty too, and they sometimes like to cool off by wallowing in water.
- Build a little protective fence around the hole. Snakes hear by sensing vibrations on the ground. If there is a lot of movement nearby, they’ll be very skittish. They won’t come out if they hear noise from pets or young children.
- Purchase some substrate and lay it outside the hole. The snake may mistake this for a natural habitat, and come to investigate.
- Sit by the hole for a while each day. Sooner or later, the snake will recognize your scent. This may make them curious if they are brave.
If you are not successful during the day, try again after the sun goes down. Remember, some snakes are nocturnal, especially during the summer. You may need to show some patience, but eventually, you’ll gain a snake’s attention.
If you’re unsure what to do when the snake emerges, you should consult a professional. Alternatively, pick up a humane snake trap. These will secure a snake, and you can release it back into the wild.
How to Fill Snake Holes in the Yard
If you find snake holes on your property, you may decide that you want to cover them up. Snakes will not suffocate.
If you wish to remove snakes from your property permanently, you should cover their hole with something solid. A substantial piece of wood is best. While not aesthetically pleasing, it can be eventually removed.
The idea is to send a message to snakes that you don’t want them around. If you disrupt their nest, they’ll receive that loud and clear and move on. If you cover it with loose soil, however, snakes will burrow in it.
If you want to deter snakes but prefer not to use wood, try wire fencing. You could also secure some hessian fabric, which is more likely to be camouflaged against grass. Throughout the whole process, however, you’ll have to remember that you are technically on snake territory.
How Do I Prevent Snakes from Creating Holes in My Yard?
Snakes live to hide and remain undetected. This means that a clean and tidy yard is usually undesirable to a snake.
Keep your grass well trimmed and short, and regularly sweep up piles of leaves. If you have fallen tree branches or logs, remove them. These steps, along with some low-level fencing around your property, will keep snake out. Just remember that the same rules will not apply to rodents and other burrowing animals. No snake holes in your yard do not equal no holes in your yard.
Remember, just because a snake cannot dig holes it doesn’t mean they are not populating them. A hole designed as a den for another animal could soon become home to a snake. This means that you’ll have to be vigilant about staying safe when you notice a hole.
If you happen to come across such a snake burrow burrowing in the wild or your yard, steer clear of it. You should watch from afar for a while, and get an idea of what is living within. Regardless of whether this cavity is a snake hole or not, you should fill it. Eventually, a reptile is likely to set up home in this attractive location.