If you like to have a well-kept lawn in pristine condition, there is nothing worse than waking up to loads of little holes that were not there when you went to bed.
There are loads of potential candidates who have been ruining your morning and making your lawn an eyesore, so we are going to see if we can help you discover who that culprit may be.
By looking at the size and the shape of the holes, we should have a good idea of who or what is creating small holes in your lawn overnight; some of them are obvious but there are a few little blighters that can ruin your lawn that you may not have been aware of.
Another factor to consider is the time of the year as different seasons will mean that different animals are active, some of them may be laying eggs while others may be looking for something to eat.
What is Digging Small Holes in My Lawn at Night?
There are a variety of animals and insects that can create holes in your lawn and some of them do so for different reasons. In the UK, chances are that the holes that have appeared overnight are caused by moles, foxes, badgers, or squirrels but there are other animals and insects that could be the problem.
Once you have an idea of what size and shape of the hole is caused by what animal and what time of year they are active, you will then know what to do next. If you want to try and prevent it from happening in the future (that is if there is anything that can be done), you will want to consider one, if not all the below.
Time of Year
The time of year is an important factor to consider when you have holes that appear in your lawn overnight. For example, foxes may dig holes in your garden in the autumn or early spring looking for grubs and earthworms.
Grubs and earthworms are closer to the surface in wetter conditions meaning that they are easier to find when the ground is softer.
The shape of the hole is often a major clue in determining what is causing the holes in your lawn. Some pests and insects leave conical mounds and others will leave a mess.
For example, an earthworm will leave a small 2cm mound of soil around a hole whereas a mole will leave a huge mound the shape of a mini volcano.
The size of the hole will certainly rule out some of the possible culprits as a hole 1 foot across is not likely to have been left by a bird that is plucking up earthworms.
For example, a large hole like that could be an indication of badgers beginning to excavate a new sett whereas tiny holes may be caused by insects that are emerging into the world after hatching from their eggs.
Another telltale sign of who or what is causing the damage, is the footprints that may be left behind.
Have a good look at the size and shape of the foot/ pawprints and see if that will help you with your identification.
Potential Culprits that May Dig Holes in Lawns UK
There are various potential culprits for small holes appearing in lawns overnight and to be honest if it is something small like an earthworm or hatching insect, you may not even notice.
If it is birds that are damaging your lawn, most are only active during the day so we are going to look at some of the other animals that may be responsible.
Moles are subterranean mammals that spend most of their lives in solitude underground except for during the mating season when they will encounter others.
Moles are good for tilling the soil and eating bugs and larvae that may become pests in the future, but they can be a real nuisance if they get under your lawn.
Molehills are easily recognised and take shape as small volcano-looking mounds about 1 & ½ feet across with a small 2 to 3-inch hole at the top. Molehills are created when a mole is constructing new tunnels or repairing damaged ones and needs somewhere to get rid of the waste soil.
Moles are notoriously difficult to get rid of humanely but there are a few good ideas that you can try.
Foxes are scavengers and can often be found wandering around gardens looking for their next meal whether that be in the rubbish or if the weather permits, your lawn.
As we mentioned earlier, foxes may be a problem when the ground is soft and wet when earthworms and grubs tend to be closer to the surface. A single fox could easily make mincemeat out of your lawn in just 1 night in search of tasty morsels that may be just out of sight.
Fox holes look like what a dog may dig as the holes are dug in much the same way. Foxes will use their paws to continuously scrape back the soil until they find what they are looking for.
To try and stop foxes from digging in your garden, we have an article that may help you here.
As you may know, squirrels are little rodents and the grey squirrel here in the UK is considered vermin.
Squirrels can be a particular nuisance to lawns when they are burying their nuts and then digging them up again. Squirrel holes are typically a little smaller than holes dug by foxes and are only usually 1 to 2 inches deep and they are usually backfilled with some loose soil.
Furthermore, squirrels are not active at night so if you suspect squirrels and you are an early riser, you are likely to catch them in the act at dawn. Read more on squirrels digging holes in your garden.
Badgers are certainly creatures of the night and many people go through life not even seeing one in the wild except when they drive past one laying at the side of the road after an unfortunate accident.
Badgers can be a real pain for gardeners as they will not only eat earthworms and grubs, but they will also dig down and eat your bulbs.
They are particularly fond of tulips so if holes are appearing in your lawn around the time of your tulips going missing, badgers are likely to be the cause!
Read more about how to keep badgers from digging in your garden.
Magpies are also well known for digging in lawns but this is usually during the daytime and not at night. Magpies will be searching the lawn for grubs and other tasty insects like leather jackets.
You can read more on how to keep Magpies from digging in our other article.
Ants are known to make small excavations in your lawn. On appearance, they look like molehills but they are 1000 times smaller.
These will be more noticeable in the warmer months just after a rainfall when the ants are more active.
Ant holes will usually be numerous in number so they are relatively easy to spot.
Rabbits are another animal that lives underground with a tendency to dig. There are a few reasons why rabbits may be digging in your lawn too.
Rabbits dig when they are looking to start a new burrow (warren), they also dig when they are looking for food and when they are trying to get away from predators.
Holes appearing in your lawn at night can be a real pain and holes in large numbers can be devastating.
Holes from earthworms and small insects will not really cause you a problem, it is mammals that are often the real menace and can make even the most pristine of lawns look like a cow-field overnight.
Garden Doctor Tips
“Scoop up the loose soil from molehills and use it as part of your potting soil mix!”
“If badgers or foxes are proving a nuisance, it is best to work on keeping them out of the garden altogether!”
“To prevent squirrels from digging up your lawn, make sure that you have an abundance of nuts and seeds available for them to eat!”
“For a great natural deterrent for most mammals, boil some chilli and garlic then blend it and spray over your garden!”
Frequently Asked Questions
What Makes 2-inch holes in the ground?
In the UK squirrels are often the culprit. A tell-tale sign of squirrels digging in your garden is that the 2-inch holes are usually backfilled with loose soil.
Do hedgehogs make holes in lawns?
No, hedgehogs are not diggers and are extremely unlikely to make holes in your lawn. Depending on the size and shape of the hole, it could be anything from foxes and squirrels to badgers and moles.
What animal makes holes in the lawn?
In the UK, some of the most common causes of unsightly holes in lawns are caused by Foxes, Badgers, Squirrels, Moles, Voles, Ants, Earthworms and Birds such as Magpies and Crows.
Why do holes keep appearing in my lawn?
There are several possible reasons why holes may appear in your lawn, including animals digging for food or shelter, insects or pests, lawn diseases, or soil issues. To determine the cause, it’s important to observe the holes and any other signs of damage, such as footprints, droppings, or damaged plants.
What is tearing up my lawn at night UK?
Animals such as badgers, foxes, rabbits, and hedgehogs may tear up lawns at night in search of food or shelter. To deter these animals, you can try installing physical barriers such as fencing, using deterrents such as motion-activated lights or sprinklers, or removing any potential food sources from your garden.
What is tunnelling under my lawn UK?
Tunneling under a lawn in the UK may be caused by animals such as moles, voles, or rats, or by soil issues such as drainage problems or tree roots. To determine the cause, it’s important to observe any signs of animal activity, such as raised ridges or mounds of soil, or to inspect the soil for signs of compaction or other issues.
What insects make holes in lawn?
Insects such as chafer grubs, leatherjackets, and ants may make holes in a lawn by feeding on the grass roots. These insects can cause significant damage to a lawn if left untreated, leading to thinning or bare patches.
What do mole holes look like in your yard?
Mole holes in a yard can appear as raised ridges of soil or as circular or semi-circular mounds of soil. The tunnels themselves are usually quite shallow and may be visible as raised lines in the grass. Mole activity can cause damage to lawns by uprooting grass and creating uneven surfaces.
Hi, I’m Trev and I’ve been growing things since I can remember. When I was younger, I grew up on a farm, so I have always been around plants and animals. After studying horticulture at university, I decided to start my own nursery which I have run now for 25 years. In my spare time, I run this website – which is a resource for people who want to learn more about their gardens.