Small Holes in Lawn Overnight – Causes + What to do

Waking up to holes in your lawn can be scary and at the same time not good for the heath of your grass. Early investigation and identification of the culprit will help in preventing further damage to your turf. Let us look at what causes holes in lawn overnight and what to do.

Small holes in lawn are mainly caused by moles, squirrels, rodents like mice, gophers, voles or insects like beetles, wasps and ants. Sometimes dogs or birds can make lots of holes in your lawn while hunting for insects.

What’s causing holes in my lawn?

Holes in yard or lawn comes in various sizes or shapes. Small holes signals an activity by small animals and possibly a less damage to your turf. On the other hand large holes in lawn may be created by big animals such as moles, squirrels or pets and the damage is visibly large.

To effectively stop animals from digging holes in your yard, consider the time of the day it happened, the season and the size of the holes. Most insects become active after transforming from larva into adult and will create holes when they are getting from the soil to the surface.

While some animals may dig holes for nesting, others dig holes in the ground to extract underlying prey. To offer a lasting solution, the following are potential reasons for holes in your lawn:

1. Beetles

Japanese beetles are the worst nightmare to every gardener. The insects lay and burry eggs into the soil which hatches into larva well known as grubs. During winter and early fall, the grubs hide under the soil as they mature into the next stage.

During spring and early summer, grubs have matured into beetles and they start to emerge to the ground, this is the time you will notice small holes in lawn overnight. Grub damage in lawn can as well be seen during the larva stage when they are actively feeding on grass roots.

Grubs usually doubles up the problems in your yard. Most birds, moles, raccoons, skunks, wasps and armadillos will come around to dig up your lawn in attempt to extract the larvae. Grubs should therefore be controlled especially when in large numbers if you want to continue enjoying your green lush grass.

2. Earthworms

Earthworms form narrow tunnels into the soil especially when the ground is damp. They are regarded as important microorganisms in the soil as they help in mixing up soil with available nutrients, water and air. While earthworms may be present in the soil throughout the year, their activities increase during spring.

Other than holes, the worms creates some bumps on lawn causing it to appear uneven. Since earthworms are beneficial in relieving soil compaction and makes the lawn to be healthier, it is not a good idea to eliminate them. Holes caused by earthworms should not cause any concern but if you see your grass dying or drying, then more suspects should be pursued.

3. Wasps

Scoliid wasps and cicada-killer wasps are another culprits for holes in your yard. Scoliid wasps actively dig holes into the soil hunting for grubs to kill. They then lay eggs on the killed grubs and wait for them to hatch into a new generation. Wasps are known to be a natural controller of grubs in the soil.

Cicada-Killer Wasps on the other hand hunt and kills cicadas for food. They dug holes before they drag in their paralyzed prey. Wasps create small holes of up to 1-inch in diameter and its common to find them in areas where the vegetation is sparse or the grass is short.

4. Birds

Birds wake up early in the morning to hunt and feed on worms, grubs and other insects found in the turf. While small flying birds will not cause a major damage to your lawn, large birds can tear away your lawn while searching for grubs.

Small random holes caused by birds should not cause you headache. Birds sometimes biologically help in controlling population of pests found in our gardens.

5. Moles

Moles reside in large deep holes they usually dig on their own. Moles may also create a hole while hunting for soil dwelling insects, worms and grubs. Holes created by moles are about 10-inches in diameter with conical mounds.

Moles can cause serious destruction to a lawn. While it’s tough to get rid of moles, some methods including use of traps may work. Moles can also be repelled away using some ointments such as castor oil.

6. Rodents

These include rats, mice and voles among others. Rodents feed on insects and plants including fruits, vegetables and grass. In addition to a snake-like holes, rodents will feed on and urinate on your grass causing it more problems.

Some rodents feed on underground insects and they may dig a hole for extracting their meal. Rodents also give birth in hidden places including holes they have created. Controlling rodents is also a challenge and the best thing is to consult professional pest controllers.

7. Squirrels and chipmunks

Like squirrels, chipmunks dig holes to hide in their foods, nest, relax and hunt for prey. Squirrels create a slightly big hole that can potentially affect your lawn. Catching a squirrel or chipmunk is not easy as they are capable of running so fast. It is thus a good idea to consult wildlife and pest experts for the task.

8. Crayfish

If your yard is located near water areas, you may discover some constructed tower-like holes. The crayfish uses balls of mud to create holes about 2-inch in diameter and 3-inch high.

9. Pets

Dogs are notorious at digging holes in yard. They do it for fun, to hide their food or discover something in the soil. A canine can make a really large hole with soil all over the area. Filling up the hole may take an effort and new grass should be planted.

Domesticated or stray cats will similarly poke holes in your yard for fun or when hunting. Investing in an outdoor cat deterrent can help to keep canines and felines out of your yard.

10.  Kids

Kids may decide to take their play to a different level. While left alone in the yard, children can dig holes for fun. Always engage them with toys and keep an eye while they are playing on their own.

Note: Large or small holes in lawn can become catastrophic if no action is taken. They may become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, cause drainage problems and reduce the visual appeal of a lawn. Holes in lawn should therefore be investigated, filled and be prevented.

How to Fill Holes in the Lawn

We have looked at reasons why you get small holes in your lawn overnight. Apart from controlling pests, keeping pets and children out of your lawn, you also need to fill the small holes in your lawn. Basically, you can do this using soil but you have to start by few preparations.

  1. Using a shovel or a trowel, dig and remove the top layer of sod around the hole. Drive your tool down 4 inches into the soil and slide it under the grass roots, then lift the sod out of the area. If it’s a tunnel, dig as much as possible to uncover it.
  2. Fill the hole with top soil as you compact it to approximately 3 inches below the ground surface level. If the area was not covered with grass, top with soil to the level of the ground. A blend of top soil and some decomposed composed will provide a good base for the establishment of grass roots.
  3. Replace the sod you removed to cover the bare spot. If the sod is not large enough to completely cover the area, then you may add some sod plugs obtained from other areas of the lawn.
  4. Thoroughly water the sod to help the grass roots establish quickly. Water twice a day until when the sod fully blends with the rest of the grass.

Final Thought

Small holes in yard are inevitable and you should therefore be always ready to fix them and also solve the root cause of the problem. If it’s your pets or children creating the holes then you should provide them alternative playing areas. If its wild animals causing the holes, then deter them from your lawn or remove what is attracting them there.

For further reading: Michigan State University Extension: Who’s that digging in my yard: Skunks, raccoons or moles?

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