By Les Harrison
Wakulla County Extension Director
“Nothing good happens after midnight,” is an oft used phrase by the parents of teenagers. It is a subtle way of saying a lot of mischief occurs under the cover of darkness, so be home to stay out of trouble.
Unfortunately, the same statement can be made about late night visitor to the lawn and landscape. The first light of morning can reveal random pockmarks in what had been the perfect lawn the previous evening.
The culprit is not likely the neighborhood teenager with a reputation for inappropriate practical jokes. The offender usually is an armadillo, sometimes called a Florida-speed-bump or a Possum-on-the-half-shell.
Armadillos eat adult insects and larvae. They incessantly dig holes in lawns and landscapes in their search for food, many times uprooting plants in their food search. Their holes are approximately one to three inches deep and three to five inches wide.
Using insecticides to decrease the armadillo food supply is not guaranteed, but may help reduce the digging. In cases where there is a large, and always ravenous, armadillo population this reduction of food may increase digging activity as they search more diligently for a smaller food supply.
Another consideration is all chemical treatments have to be reapplied on a permanent basis for impact. Always read and follow label instructions for safe use of insecticides.
To add insult to landscape injury, armadillos may burrow under driveways, foundations and patios potentially causing structural damage. Additionally, their burrows in pastures pose a potential leg-injury hazard to livestock.
Burrows openings are approximately seven to eight inches in diameter, about the size of a one-gallon plastic jug, and up to 15 feet in length. The sandy soil is piled up right outside the burrow entrance. Armadillos rest in a deep burrow during the day and are usually active after dark.
Because armadillos are nocturnal, trapping techniques designed to capture them as they emerge from their burrows should be applied late in the afternoon and checked several hours after darkness. Fencing is another option to discourage the presence of armadillos.
One method is to firmly insert a six-inch or greater diameter PVC pipe into the entrance of an active burrow. Adult armadillos will get stuck in the pipe as they try to exit. Another option involves a nylon throw-net staked down to cover the burrow entrance. Armadillos will get tangled in the net as they emerge. Laying chicken-wire along a patio, driveway or house foundation will discourage burrowing.
Armadillos can also be trapped using a raccoon-size metal trap, available from local pest control, feed and home improvement stores. These animals are more likely to enter a cage trap with leaf litter or soil placed over the wire bottom.
Suggested baits for the trap are live earthworms or meal worms in surrounding soil placed in hanging bags made of old nylon stockings. Overripe or spoiled fruit which will attract insects may be used as bait. Poison baits are illegal and no chemical repellents or fumigants are registered for use in Florida.
Relocating captured animals is illegal and not recommended because it only transfers the problem elsewhere and can spread an invasive species.
Fossil records indicate the armadillo’s ancestors were as large as modern-day rhinos. One can only imagine what front yards would look like if they still existed.