The Case of the Missing Escarole

Sounds like a mystery, doesn’t it? Maybe the title for a Hercule Poirot novel? Actually, it’s a real-life drama here at Happy Acres. And this is just the latest incident in what has become a continuing saga of missing plants. I’m no Inspector Clouseau, but I think I know what’s happening.

See, a while back I set out some lettuce and escarole plants in the greenhouse bed. It was November 4th, according to my garden log. That day I also sowed 2 rows of spinach nearby. Here’s what it looked like about 2 weeks later, on Nov 19th:

lettuce and escarole on Nov 4th

lettuce and escarole on Nov 19th

Notice the three escarole plants on the right. They are a darker green than the lettuce plants on the left, which are more of a yellow-green. The spinach is coming up, and needs to be thinned. Now look at this photo taken on Dec 13th:

lettuce and escarole on Dec 13th

lettuce and escarole on Dec 13th

The spinach plants have been thinned, and the lettuce plants have grown. But wait – there’s only two escarole plants!!! Closer inspection is in order:

where is the other escarole plant?

where is the other escarole plant?

There seems to be a hole where the escarole plant used to be. Let’s look a little closer:

closer look at hole

closer look at hole

It looks like a little bit of green material has been left in the hole. I wonder if we can get DNA evidence?!? A little digging reveals this:

piece of missing escarole plant

piece of missing escarole plant

It looks like the thief has left behind a piece of the missing plant. Notice the dark green color, which seems to match the remaining escarole plants.

It will take a couple of weeks to get the DNA evidence back from the crime lab, but all the evidence points to a habitual offender in this neck of the woods. I’m pretty sure it’s a member of the infamous Microtus gang, probably Microtus pennsylvanicus.

It also goes by the alias of Meadow Vole, and reportedly forms numerous underground tunnels as well as surface runways. It is allegedly vegetarian, feeding on seeds, tubers, bulbs, vegetables and ornamentals. I guess it is no surprise then it staked out Happy Acres for it’s crime spree!

A scan of the national crime database returned the following grainy mug shot:

Microtus pennsylvanicus aka Meadow Vole

Microtus pennsylvanicus aka Meadow Vole

Don’t let its seemingly cute appearance deceive you – this one is a dangerous criminal!!! It has already been implicated in the disappearances of several other individuals here, including Mr Lettuce and Mr Radicchio plus the entire Parsley Family earlier this year. All of them disappeared without a trace, other than the getaway hole left nearby, which seems to be this gang’s M.O.

Normally I am a mild-mannered nature lover but this is getting out of control! One of my MG friends puts a mousetrap baited with peanut butter and a sunflower seed near the hole, then covers the trap and hole with a large clay flower pot. She reports great success, though the voles reproduce prolifically and there are always more coming along to replace the vanquished. The only problem with this approach is that with my close plantings there’s usually not enough room to put the trap without removing even more plants.

I am at wit’s end and ready to call in Agent 007 – perhaps he and Q can devise some gadgetry to rid us of this hideous menace. I can only hope they are available. Besides, if there’s one thing we really like here at HA, it’s a good GADGET!

Does anyone out there have a strategy for dealing with voles???

(Vole image obtained from Wikipedia Commons and is in the public domain.)

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5 Responses to The Case of the Missing Escarole

  1. Hello Villager,

    I’m sorry, but I don’t have any advice to give. I am impressed with your CSI abilities. Have you ever considered a second career?

  2. How about a good snake? If you don’t mind sharing paradise with a serpent. They do eat voles.

  3. Villager says:

    Deborah, snakes are always welcome here! I see them from time to time, but frankly they seem to be sleeping on the job. Or perhaps they are just outnumbered by the Vole Gang.

    Noelle, I am flattered by your comments, but I think I better keep my day job. Oh wait – I don’t have one anymore!!! 🙂

  4. How about getting your cats interested in hunting, somehow? With three cats you’d think that voles and mice would avoid your place. Neat story, though. Good luck!

  5. Pamela says:

    I have had similar problems. I got a bottle from my local nursery of Bunny Pee. Yes there is an angora bunny lady who milks them.
    Evidently, they and moles are quite aware of rabbits huge territorial ways and when they sniff out any evidence that a rabbit might live or wander close then vanish. No killing of varmits either.

    I have tried it and it works like FANTASTIC! (this fall two of them wiped out my entire eastern garden and flowers)

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