Small Holes in Lawn Overnight? (Here’s Why + Solution)

After spending time and effort maintaining a lush green lawn, small holes should be the least of your worries. But unfortunately, small holes in a lawn are inevitable. These holes result from the activities of tiny critters and other animals.

It can be pretty frustrating to see these holes when you wake up, and it’s great that you’re learning how to maintain a lawn. This article is a comprehensive guide that will answer your most pressing questions. Some of the questions you’ll find answers to include:

  • What’s digging small holes in my lawn?
  • How does the time of year affect animal activities? 
  • What are the steps to filling holes in a lawn?

Let’s get started! 

The Causes of Small Holes in Lawn Overnight

From children’s play to flooding and animal activities, many factors lead to holes in your lawn. Insects and small animals likely cause small holes in the lawn that occur overnight. As insects undergo metamorphosis, transforming from larva to adult, they dig holes. 

Rodents also burrow holes, looking for insects to feed on. These critters attack your lawn at night, wreaking havoc on the landscape. Unfortunately, their nocturnal activities make it difficult for you to identify the specific animal responsible for the damage. 

A way to figure out the type of animal that infests your lawn is by studying the level of damage. You can determine the level of damage by the hole size, number of holes, hole shape, and time of the year.

Hole Shape 

The hole shape is usually a major determining factor in identifying the cause of holes in your lawn. Several animals bore different holes depending on their activity, and these holes may be in the form of burrows, mounds, and divots. While bugs and insects will leave conical mounds on the lawn, gophers will dig rounded mounds. Let’s look at the types of holes.

Burrows

A burrow is a long, narrow tunnel dug by animals for habitation. Burrows are the most common holes left by yard or garden pests like rabbits, mice, snakes, and voles. 

These holes are usually about an inch or two inches in diameter with smooth walls. Generally, burrows created by voles and shrews are one to one and a half inches, while those dug by squirrels are two inches in diameter. 

Meanwhile, holes bore by voles may be so small and almost negligible. Bigger holes, about 2 to 3 inches, close to trash bins, water, or wood piles may announce the presence of rats. That said, skunks and raccoons dig the biggest burrows, usually about 6 to 10 inches in diameter.

Mounds

These are heap piles of earth, soil, debris, or sand. Animals create these holes when searching for food or shelter, and gophers and moles are culpable for digging mounds. Holes with heaps of soil or earth indicate the presence of moles and gophers.

Divots

A divot is a small chunk of grass cut out of the ground. Although a golf club can scrape out pieces of turf from the ground, divots may result from the activities of lawnmowers, animals, and bad weather. 

Raccoons, skunks, and squirrels dig shallow divots in the grass, especially when hunting for food. Your plants getting uprooted and seeing heaps of sods on your lawn reflects the activities of raccoons. 

While you may assume that divots have a negligible effect on your lawn, the holes impact its healthy state. A divot predisposes soil to unfavorable elements that can make it dry and compact, affecting the growth of plants.

How to Identify These Holes

Now you know the types of holes, but it might be difficult identifying one from the other. So here’s how to tell them apart: 

  • Divots are different sizes, ranging from a few inches to many feet. If not corrected early and properly, divots can seriously damage the lawn.
  • Burrows are longer and narrower than mounds, but mounds are larger and rounded. Also, compared to burrows, mounds have rough, uneven sides. 
  • Burrows are usually 2-6 inches in diameter, depending on the animals that dug them. And mounds are about 3-12 inches in diameter.

Hole Size

You can identify the animals that invade your lawn from the size of the holes. A hole one foot wide is less likely to be dug by a bird. So if you see a big hole in your lawn or garden, it suggests badgers are around. Also, little holes signify infestation by insects.

Time of Year

Besides hole size and type, the time of year suggests the type of animal that attacks your lawn. For example, foxes dig holes during fall or early spring when searching for grubs or earthworms. 

These tiny creatures are most active in moist soil, feeding on grass roots and creating holes. Other insects undergo metamorphosis during spring, leaving behind small holes. You’re also likely to see anthills and molehills appearing during summer.

What Animal Digs Small Round Holes in the Lawn Overnight?

Animals like moles, rats, voles, gophers, raccoons, and skunks dig small round holes in the lawn overnight. These pests hunt for grubs and prey at night, creating small holes around the lawn.

Small Earthworm Holes

These are tiny, noticeable holes created by earthworms in the soil during spring or summer. They create these holes when the soil is moist and the temperature is warm. 

Earthworm holes may look messy, but get worried because earthworms are beneficial to lawns. If you’re bothered by the earthworm holes, rake your lawn or leave the holes to dry.

Typically, earthworms help aerate the soil and mix soil nutrients for the healthy growth of plants. For areas ridden by earthworms, you’ll come across several small holes filled with tiny soil pellets.

Infestation of Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles are the nightmare of many gardeners and lawn owners. All thanks to the havoc wreaked by these vermin. These beetles lay eggs in the soil, which hatches into larvae and grubs over time. 

In the spring and summer, the grubs grow into beetles; soon enough, they’ll start digging holes in your lawn. Moreover, they feed on grassroots in their larvae stage and attract other animals like raccoons, birds, and wasps to your lawn.

Voles

Besides beetles and earthworms, another culprit responsible for small holes in the lawn is voles. Since they share similarities with other small animals like moles, identifying holes created by voles may seem difficult. 

However, if the hole is about 1-2 inches with round droppings or chewed grass, it means a vole is nearby. These small rodents create vole holes, especially in the winter, mainly feeding on plants’ stems, roots, and bulbs. 

Voles can be quite destructive as prolific organisms that produce offspring in large litters. Therefore, you’ll need to take stringent measures to curb infestation to the barest minimum. Here’s how to eliminate voles in your yard.

Use Live Traps

Set traps to capture animals without hurting or killing them. Live traps might not yield great results, especially when many voles invade the area. However, this method helps to reduce infestation. When these animals are trapped, discard them far away from your yard so they don’t return.

Protect Young Trees

Besides feeding on vegetation, voles eat young tree trunks. To protect these trunks against these small creatures, use plastic tubing or wire mesh to wrap the lower trunk.

Use a Natural Repellent

Typically, voles find the smell and taste of castor oil repelling, so sprinkling some around your garden chases them away. Pepper contains capsaicin, a spicy compound that scares off voles.

Chopped pepper mixed with dish soap and little water effectively eliminates voles in the yard. 

Coffee grounds also help to keep voles away. Spreading it around a hole will likely deter voles until the grounds get absorbed into the soil. While this works, avoid using excess grounds, as it can deplete nitrogen in the soil.

Maintain a Healthy Lawn

Since voles feed on vegetative parts of plants, you’ll need to take measurable steps to prevent their destructive acts.

First, ensure you maintain a healthy lawn. During the dry season, regularly water grass blades to moisten them but avoid overwatering. Overwatering makes the blades soggy and appealing for voles to feed.

Gophers

These burrowing rodents are known for creating dirty mounds and causing a nuisance on your lawn. They eat grass blades and roots, destroying the lawn’s structural integrity and making the ground levels uneven. 

Their holes are similar to mole holes; hence they share some similarities. To get rid of these pests, sprinkle castor oil pellets in their tunnels to force them out. Peppermint oil and fabric softener sheets work too. 

Alternatively, use all-natural repellents like daffodils, marigolds, or coffee grounds. Finally, you can consider using a live trap or pouring dog droppings or cat litter in the holes.

Moles

These pests do the most damage since they dig underground tunnels that disrupt the lawn’s structure and create uneven ground levels. The sneaky critters dig holes overnight and cover them up before morning. 

As a result, they’re seldom seen on the surface; moles are often beneath the lawn, hunting for grubs and insects. Due to their nature, you might have a hard time controlling them. 

Some ways to tackle infestation include buying grub killer, improving lawn drainage, and creating an underground fence to prevent tunneling.

Rats

Rat holes are usually close to the food source, and the hole-digging animals virtually feed on everything from grass to fruits and insects. Rats sometimes burrow close to fences, tree snags, or big roots. 

As prolific organisms, rats can take over your yard within a short time. Therefore, you’ll need to curb the menace by using natural rat repellent like peppermint oil and crushed red pepper. 

On the other hand, you can mow overgrown grass, clear bushes, or get a cat to help keep the rat population under control. Pest control may be challenging, so you should probably consult a specialist. 

Chipmunks and Squirrels

Like the former, chipmunks and squirrels create small holes in the lawn though the damage isn’t as severe as other animals. While squirrels dig holes to store their food, chipmunks make holes to rest and sleep. 

You’ll usually find these holes next to stumps, buildings, and log piles. To control squirrels, you can spread predator urine on the lawn, and cayenne pepper and other types of pepper help to keep these animals at bay. Sprinkle the pepper on budding plants. 

Spraying pepper spray or hot sauce around the plant’s base keeps off chipmunks—Mothballs, human hair, and electronic repellent work too. Remember that chipmunks and squirrels run fast, so you may have difficulty catching them. It’s best to seek the help of a pest control expert.

Insects + Wasps 

If you notice small, shallow holes in your lawn, insects are likely to blame. They usually dig holes during metamorphosis while transforming from larvae to adults. 

Ants, wasps, bees, and other soil-dwelling insects create holes when searching for food, seeking shelter, or undergoing developmental processes. For example, digger bees dig tunnels for nesting, while termites may make holes in woody plants to create homes. 

The two types of wasps in lawns are Scolids and cicada killers. Scolids dig holes in the lawn to lay eggs and search for grubs, while cicada killers make holes to bury paralyzed cicadas alongside their eggs to provide a food source for young ones once hatched. 

It’s crucial to tackle pest problems as these can result in more issues if not controlled. Get rid of insects by using insecticides, introducing predatory animals, or incorporating lawn fertilization. Also, consider planting repellent foliage like shrubs and bushes and spray almond oil or Pyrethrum spray.

Armadillos

Another unwelcome guest that may dig holes beneath your lawn is the armadillo. Armadillos usually dig burrows about 7-8 inches in diameter for shelter and to raise their young ones. Generally, these burrows are around stumps, rock piles, and dense areas.

Armadillos begin hunting for food most times at night till the following day. They feed on plant roots, scorpions, spiders, earthworms, insects, and their larvae. Therefore, removing food sources will be an effective control method for armadillos. 

Alternatively, you can fence your yard, spray scented deterrents or insecticides, remove hiding locations and use live traps to eliminate armadillos on your lawn.

Birds

If you find small holes in your lawn and see birds around, there’s a high probability that they created those holes. The lawn harbors grubs, insects, and worms that birds eat. 

The feathered animals do little or no harm to your lawn since they help reduce the insect population. If the bird holes bother you, use a grub killer on your lawn to repel them.

Snakes

Unlike other animals, snakes do not create burrows; they occupy abandoned holes left by other pests. Meanwhile, not many can distinguish snake holes from others. The holes inhabited by these reptiles are usually circular, containing snakeskin shed by them. 

While many dread snakes, they don’t harm your lawn. If you’re worried about snakes slithering through your yard, cover holes with debris, soil, or grass sods. 

How to Fill Holes in the Lawn

Now you know the animals digging holes in your lawn, how can you fill them? The filling methods depend on the size and number of holes. If you’re filling small holes, add soil to cover them.

For bigger holes, remove dirt and fill the soil in empty spaces. Here’s a step-by-step guide to filling holes in your yard.

Add Soil

To fill holes, especially small ones, you need to add materials that will prevent the animals from penetrating the area. Use cat litter, heavy clay soil, and tiny gravel to fill the holes.

Remove Dirt from the Area

If you want to restore the beauty of your lawn, you’ll need to remove debris, and here’s how to go about it.

  • Lift the affected grass area with a flat shovel
  • Using the shovel, cut the grass into one-foot square space sods.
  • Fill the bare area with fresh topsoil. Ensure it’s well layered so it’s not washed off. 

Spread Grass Seed

Consider spreading grass seed in a bare area so it’s not exposed to unfavorable elements. Sometimes, you may have to repair your lawn, especially after pest attacks. Planting grass seed helps the lawn regain its structural integrity.

How to Prevent Animals From Digging Holes in your Lawn

There’s a lot to do to prevent animals from boring holes in your lawn. You’ll need to take stringent measures, or else hole-digging animals will keep coming to your yard to have a feast. Follow the tips below to reduce pest attacks.

  • Eliminate grubs: Add nematodes to the soil to reduce the population of grubs which serves as food sources for rodents and other animals.
  • Seed regularly: A seeded yard gives rise to a deeply rooted lawn that will be less vulnerable to attacks.
  • Setting physical barriers: Erecting a fence or chicken barrier keeps out animals. This method may be tedious, but it will lock them out.