Small Holes in Lawn Overnight? What’s Digging Up Your Lawn at Night

By   | Last Updated :   August 23, 2022 | Filed In :   DIY & How To

If you’ve woken up to a lawn that resembles the surface of Mars, you’re probably wondering what on earth has been digging up your turf. Holes in the ground can be created by many animals from foxes and badgers to squirrels, rats, birds and even insects.

small holes in lawn overnight

Credit: Tdorante10, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia

Keep reading to identify the type of holes you have in your lawn, find out which animal is the culprit and discover how you can repair any damage and hopefully prevent it from happening again.

Are overnight holes in my lawn something to be worried about?

Holes in the lawn are usually made by hungry creatures looking for food. In many cases, the activity will be seasonal and shouldn’t cause irreparable damage. Keep reading to find out which creatures are making holes in your lawn and how to discourage them from doing so.

What is making holes in my lawn?

Many holes that appear in your lawn overnight will be caused by larger nocturnal animals like foxes and badgers. They’ll be searching for snacks in the form of grubs, earthworms and fruit. Foxes will also sometimes stash food by burying it in the ground.

Moles are one of the worst culprits for creating holes in the lawn. Although we usually associate moles with their molehills, these crumbly mounds of earth cover a series of long tunnels.

Voles and squirrels may also create holes, as well as birds, earthworms, ants and bees.

If you’re on a mission to identify which animal digs small holes in your yard, we’ve put together a list of the most common tunnelling creatures to help you identify the culprits.

1. Foxes

Belonging to the same family as dogs, Canidae, foxes are the most far-reaching wild dog species in the world. These nocturnal creatures are famed for their red fur and bushy tails. Unlike other dogs, they’re able to retract their claws and have narrow, slit-like pupils, like a cat, which helps to refine their night vision.

Foxes are scavengers and are extremely widespread throughout the UK, although you may not often spot them. They’ll usually enter gardens at night on the hunt for food, digging shallow holes in the lawn to reach worms, grubs and other foxy delicacies. Foxes won’t dig when the earth is dry, so their excavations tend to be seasonal. They might also dig up flowerbeds, turn over pots and bury food which they’ll come back for later.

fox on the lawn

Guilty as charged. Image credit: @kindoosh

How to get rid of fox holes in the lawn

Foxes are masters at breaking and entering, and gardens are no exception. They can scale a high fence and squeeze through extremely small gaps. It can be tricky to stop them from entering your garden but you can deter them by not leaving pet food out, blocking any obvious holes and not using blood and bone fertilisers. You can also try ultrasonic deterrents and motion-activated water sprays.

2. Badgers

One of the most recognised British mammals, badgers are synonymous with the countryside. Belonging to the Mustelid family which includes pine-martens and otters, badgers can grow up to 90cm long, making them our largest land predator.

Badgers are usually found in rural areas, close to woodland or open countryside, but they can sometimes be spotted in more urban areas. One of the main culprits for holes in grass, badgers can rip through sections of the lawn in their search for worms and grubs.


Badger diggings and scrapings. Image credit: @mozartsgirl

How to get rid of badger holes in the lawn

Badgers are strong animals and skilled diggers and can easily get into a garden through any holes under hedges or gates. You can deter badgers by erecting a low mesh fence along any entryways, using natural scent sprays such as citronella and installing garden scarers.

3. Squirrels

They may look cute with their big, bright eyes and bushy tails, but squirrels can be a menace in the garden. Although a squirrel isn’t going to create as much damage as a fox or badger, they can still make a mess of your lawn either frantically searching for, or burying their winter food.

If you’ve spotted lots of small holes in the lawn, about two inches in diameter, a squirrel is probably the likely offender. You might also find pieces of nut shell if they were digging up a feast.

squirrel hole in lawn

Squirrels really do bury their nuts! Image credit: @crazyanimallady13

How to get rid of squirrel holes in the lawn

Because squirrels are so nimble, you won’t be able to stop them from entering your garden very easily. They do, however, detest the smell of peppermint oil so you can make a spray and liberally apply this all over the affected areas. An owl decoy may also be effective. If squirrels are digging up bulbs, laying a wire mesh over where they are buried will help. If all else fails, cats and dogs make excellent squirrel scarers!

4. Moles

If you have a resident mole in your garden, you’ll certainly know about it! Moles make their trademark molehills when they come to the surface in search of food such as worms. Moles make a hole in the surface of the ground and push the earth straight up with their strong digging feet.

Like most gardeners, moles prefer moist, loamy soil which is ideal for tunnelling through. Moles are fossorial mammals which means they spend the vast majority of their life digging. Impressively, these reclusive creatures can dig up to 4 metres in just one hour. They are active day and night so you might be lucky enough to spot one emerging after rainfall or on a damp day.

mole hole on the lawn

The unmistakable deposits from the hole of a mole. Image credit: @dreamlife_cottage

How to get rid of molehills in the lawn

It’s tempting to just squish down the molehills, but it won’t deter moles from digging in the slightest. Instead, save the soft soil for planting and try inserting something that smells bad to the moles down the hole. Try smelly old cheese or a cloth soaked in sour milk. Moles are very sensitive to noise so you can also try blasting out the radio by their molehills and, depending on the music you choose, it may send them scurrying.

You can also contact professional mole removal experts if the problem persists.

5. Voles

If you’ve spotted neat, golfball-sized holes around the base of a tree, in the lawn and around the edges, you may have vole holes in your garden. Field voles feed on grass, plant roots, bulbs and seeds. Vole holes might not be ideal but they don’t cause anywhere near as much damage as moles and larger mammals.

vole hole in lawn

The hole of a vole. Image credit:

How to get rid of vole holes in the lawn

Voles tend to pose a much larger problem to yards in America than they do in UK gardens. It’s unlikely that you’ll have much of a problem with tunnelling voles but if you do want to get rid of voles, mow the lawn short, keep your garden clean and tidy and remove any log piles or other ideal hiding places for voles. Vole tunnels are small and shallow and any holes that appear in the lawn are easily repairable.

6. Rats

If you’re faced with medium-sized, 2-4 inch holes in the ground, you may have a rat on your hands. So numerous that they outnumber humans, nocturnal rats mainly live in underground burrows and are experts at staying out of our way. 

Rats will often dig holes near a food source, so you may find rat holes near bins or vegetable gardens. They’ll also seek shelter and dig into sheds and houses if they can. 

rat hole lawn

A brown rat hole. Image credit: @rebecca_gphotography

How to get rid of rat holes in the lawn

There are a couple of effective ways to deter rats. Firstly, you can try flushing them out of any holes with water, it’s unlikely to drown the rats but is likely to send them scurrying quickly out of any holes. Rats also detest the smell of pepper so liberally sprinkling this around the holes can be an effective deterrent.

If this fails, you may want to call in a professional pest controller.

7. Birds

If your lawn is covered with small holes and bits of ripped turf, large birds like magpies and rooks could be the culprits.

small bird holes in lawn

Here’s what a lawn looks like after a visit from the birds looking for seeds or worms.

Hungry birds in search of tasty morsels like leatherjacket grubs can cause damage to your grass.

bird on the lawn

These beautiful birds can damage a lawn. Image credit: @mede09

How to get rid of bird holes in lawn

There are several ways to deter birds from pecking holes in the grass; try providing an alternative food source, adding motion-activated sprinklers or bird scarers and make sure that your lawn is in tip-top condition. You can also target leatherjackets by applying nematodes.

8. Digger wasps and mining bees

Believe it or not, there are over 60 species of mining bees and 100 species of digger wasps in the UK. Mining bees are solitary insects that make nests in the ground. You can identify their small holes by the piles of soft earth left next to the tunnel entrances.

Similarly, female digger wasps excavate nest holes which can be up to 30cm deep. Some species of digger wasp will nest in the same area and there can be as many as 100 nests over several metres.

minning bee in a hole

A mining bee emerges from a hole. Image credit: @outside_in_my_garden

How to get rid of bee holes in the ground

Bees and wasps will usually nest in areas of soft, bare soil as it’s easier to burrow into. Treat any bare patches in your lawn and keep the ground well watered to deter any digging. You can also try sprinkling cinnamon in any holes.

9. Earthworms

Although you’re unlikely to spot worm holes in your garden, the casts that tunnelling worms leave all over the grass can be a problem. Worms are good for the soil, they help to aerate the ground and break down thatch, the dead layer that lies between the green grass blades and the soil where grubs like to linger.

Worm casts are extremely nutritious worm poo. It’s great for the soil but if you have a lot of worms, it’s unsightly and can eventually create an uneven surface.

worm casts

Worm casts are unsightly but provide great food for the soil. Image credit:

How to get rid of worm casts

Looking after your lawn so it becomes lush and thick is the best way to minimise unsightly worm casts. You can sweep any casts away when the weather is dry and also use a roller to compress any small mounds. Try not to overwater the grass as a moist lawn will be irresistible to worms.

10. Ants

With over 50 species of ant in the UK, you’re never likely to be far from a colony. The black ant is the most common and you can easily identify their nests by the large piles of excavated earth that they leave on the ground. Considering how tiny ants are, the size of the mound of earth is a great indicator of how extensive their nests are.

Though ant hills won’t damage the grass, they can be unsightly and create bare patches on the lawn.

ant nests

An ants’ lawn mountain range. Image credit: @living.gentle

How to get rid of ants in the lawn

Because ants won’t damage the grass and they don’t create big holes, the easiest way to deal with the ant hills is just to sweep them away on a dry day. It won’t remove the ants, but since they’ve already created their nest, the hill is unlikely to come back. Here’s our complete guide on to how to get rid of ants nest in your lawn naturally.

How to fill holes of animals that dig in the garden

If the holes are small, you can simply fill them with sand or topsoil and add a little grass seed if necessary.

If the damage is more extensive, you’ll need to remove any damaged turf, add a layer of topsoil which will need to be levelled to match the rest of the lawn and apply suitable grass seed.


As annoying as holes that appear overnight in the lawn may be, most of the time, they won’t cause any lasting damage to your garden. 

With a little effort, you should be able to deter larger animals from entering your garden and digging up the lawn. When it comes to smaller creatures and insects, you might have to get creative with preventative measures but most of the time, you can view small holes as a handy method of aerating the lawn!


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1 Comment
  1. Nature for futures
    April 22, 2024 at 6:21 pm

    how to get rid of absolutely any nature. We should be embracing these creatures using our garden, the nature depletion is progressing at an alarming rate, every single creature on this list adds to the biodiversity of our gardens, local ecosystems and wider network!


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