How to deal with armadillos in your yard this spring

Published 2:23 pm Friday, April 27, 2018

Waking up to a lawn that looks like a practice tee at a local driving range is not a pleasant experience. 

The holes dug by armadillos also damage ornamental plants and gardens. Just what exactly are armadillos doing here? 

The nine-banded armadillos have been migrating from Mexico since the turn of the last century. They have worked their way up from Florida county by county. They are as far north as Athens and Rome. 

The Aztecs considered their flesh a delicacy. The Aztec name means “turtle-rabbit.” They have nine movable bands around their middle portion of their carapace. Their peg-like teeth and sticky tongues munch down their diet of grubs, insects and earthworms very efficiently. 

They do have a fondness for quail eggs as well. Their eyesight is none too good, but their sense of smell is exceptional. 

Armadillos usually are 24 to 32-inches-long including their tail and weigh between 12 and 17 pounds. The females are a little smaller than the males. 

Long claws make them very proficient diggers. They can dig a hole very quickly. I watched one dig a burrow in the time it took for me to get my camera out and turned on. 

Their burrows can be as long as 24 feet, but they average around three to four feet. Each armadillo can have five to 10 burrows. They seem to know instinctively where their burrows are when they are frightened. They can run fast and leap vertically when in danger.  

The nine-banded armadillo does not curl up in a ball when threatened contrary to popular belief. They do have anal scent glands to mark their territory and to scare predators. 

The female armadillo raises one brood per year. One egg is fertilized and then divides into four identical quadruplets. The mother raises the young on her own. Their lifespan is approximately six to seven years.  

They do not like temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, nor do they tolerate extremely cold temperatures. They do not hibernate or store fat. They like to forage at night during hot weather and forage during the day in the winter when the temperature warms up. 

So, why to they come into our yards? They are looking for food, namely white grubs. Japanese beetles, green June beetles and May/June beetles are all scarab beetles that produce C-shaped white grubs of various sizes. 

Some of these beetles are serious pests of ornamentals and fruits including figs, peaches and grapes. They eat the roots of lawn grasses as well. The armadillos are rooting up these beetle larvae. 

One way to control armadillo damage is to control the white grubs. If your yard is small enough, you can treat the grubs with a lawn applied insecticide that will kill the grubs. The insecticide can be granular or liquid. It is water activated so plan to spread the insecticide before a rain. If not, use a sprinkler to water it in.  

These products are usually called “Grub-Be-Gone” or something similar. Follow the label directions. The armadillos will not have a food source and will move on to your neighbor’s yard.

Another method that works if your yard is too large to treat with insecticides is removal. Tomahawk traps placed along fence lines and foundations that have wings to guide them in are effective. 

According to UGA research, unbaited traps with wings work as well as traps that are baited. Trap placement is the key to success. An outfit in Louisiana sells wood traps that are baited with armadillo scent. 

Armadillos are not protected under Georgia wildlife regulations. They can be hunted or trapped year-round without limit.  Remember that you cannot release trapped armadillos. 

The drawback to using traps is that if your neighbors are not they will migrate back into the vacuum that you created by trapping. If you can get your neighborhood association together so that everyone is trapping, it will be more effective. 

Controlling the offending beetles before they lay eggs in the soil can also help. Japanese beetles enjoy muscadine grape leaves very much. When they begin to congregate on the leaves is a good time to reduce their populations. This process is called trap cropping. 

Exclusion is another means of controlling this obnoxious critter. Putting up light fencing or screening around your raised beds or your garden area works. Fencing in your whole yard may be cost prohibitive but you may be able to fence off small areas.  

If you already have a fence and they are tunneling underneath, place hardware cloth or chicken wire at a right angle to the fence and peg it down may discourage further intrusion.  

Putting an electric wire six inches from your house and six inches from the soil may also prevent burrowing along your foundation. 

Using just one method may not be as effective as a combination of methods. Making their lives as miserable or as difficult as possible is the intention so that they will look elsewhere for their supper. 

What is going on in Extension? 

  • 4-H Camp sign up: Junior Camp, Cloverleaf Camp, Wilderness Camp and Marine Resources camp. Call the office: (706) 883-1675
  • MGEV Plant Sale: April 28, Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ag Center.

If you have any questions, please call the extension office at (706) 883-1675.