Small Holes in Lawn Overnight? Causes + What to Do

Waking up to holes in your lawn can be frustrating. Holes in lawns are not only ugly but also damaging to the grass. Before you fill such holes, it is important to find out what caused them as part of solving the problem for good. So, what causes holes in the lawn?

Holes in lawns are mainly caused by insects like wasps, beetles, and ants or rodents like moles, voles, squirrels, mice, and gophers. Birds may also make small holes in your lawn as they try to extract and feed on underlying insects.

Holes in Lawn – What Causes?

Animals can dig holes in the ground for various reasons including hunting, nesting, and hiding. These holes may vary in size, appearance, and depth depending on the mission or type of animals that make them. The following are animals that make holes in the yard overnight.

1. Beetles

Japanese beetles are the worst nightmare for every gardener. The insects lay and bury eggs into the soil which hatches into larvae well known as grubs. During winter and early fall, the grubs hide under the soil as they mature into the next stage.

During spring and early summer, grubs have matured into beetles and they start to emerge to the ground, this is the time you will notice small holes in the lawn overnight. Grub damage in lawn can as well be seen during the larva stage when they are actively feeding on grass roots.

Grubs usually double up the problems in your yard. Most birds, moles, raccoons, skunks, wasps, and armadillos will come around to dig up your lawn in an attempt to extract the larvae. Grubs should therefore be controlled especially when in large numbers if you want to continue enjoying your green lush grass.

2. Earthworms

Earthworms form narrow tunnels into the soil especially when the ground is damp. They are regarded as important microorganisms in the soil as they help in mixing up the soil with available nutrients, water, and air. While earthworms may be present in the soil throughout the year, their activities increase during spring.

Other than holes, the worms create some bumps on the lawn causing it to appear uneven. Since earthworms are beneficial in relieving soil compaction and makes the lawn to be healthier, it is not a good idea to eliminate them.

Holes caused by earthworms should not cause any concern but if you see your grass dying or drying, then more suspects should be pursued.

3. Wasps

Scoliid wasps and cicada-killer wasps are other culprits for holes in your yard. Scoliid wasps actively dig holes into the soil hunting for grubs to kill. They then lay eggs on the killed grubs and wait for them to hatch into a new generation. Wasps are known to be a natural controllers of grubs in the soil.

Cicada-Killer Wasps on the other hand hunt and kills cicadas for food. They dug holes before they drag in their paralyzed prey. Wasps create small holes of up to 1-inch in diameter and it’s common to find them in areas where the vegetation is sparse or the grass is short.

4. Ants

Ants use their jaws to excavate and create holes in the earth which leads to tunnels and anthills. The type and size of the holes they dig vary based on the species of the ants. Some types of ants – usually smaller in size create barely-noticeable holes while others make holes with large mounds.

5. Birds

Birds wake up early in the morning to hunt and feed on worms, grubs, and other insects found in the turf. While small flying birds will not cause damage to your lawn, large birds can tear away your lawn while searching for grubs.

Small random holes caused by birds should not cause you a headache. Birds sometimes biologically help in controlling the population of pests found in our gardens.

6. Moles

Moles reside in large deep holes they usually dig on their own. Moles may also create a hole while hunting for soil-dwelling insects, worms, and grubs. Holes created by moles are about 10-inches in diameter with conical mounds.

Moles can cause serious destruction to a lawn. While it’s tough to get rid of moles, some methods including the use of traps may work. Moles can also be repelled away using some ointments such as castor oil.

7. Rodents

These include rats, mice, and voles among others. Rodents feed on insects and plants including fruits, vegetables, and grass. In addition to a snake-like hole, rodents will feed on and urinate on your grass causing it more problems.

Some rodents feed on underground insects and they may dig a hole for extracting their meal. Rodents also give birth in hidden places including holes they have created. Controlling rodents is also a challenge and the best thing is to consult professional pest controllers.

8. Squirrels and chipmunks

Like squirrels, chipmunks dig holes to hide in their food, nest, relax and hunt for prey. Squirrels create a slightly big hole that can potentially affect your lawn.

Catching a squirrel or chipmunk is not easy as they are capable of running so fast. It is thus a good idea to consult wildlife and pest experts for the task.

9. Crayfish

If your yard is located near water areas, you may discover some constructed tower-like holes. The crayfish uses balls of mud to create holes about 2-inch in diameter and 3-inch high. They dig down for safety, but mostly to get to the water.

10. Pets

Dogs are notorious for digging holes in yards. They do it for fun, to hide their food, or discover something in the soil. A canine can make a really large hole with soil all over the area. Filling up the hole may take an effort and new grass should be planted.

Domesticated or stray cats will similarly poke holes in your yard for fun or when hunting. Investing in an outdoor cat deterrent can help to keep canines and felines out of your yard.

Note: Large or small holes in the lawn can become catastrophic if no action is taken. They may become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, cause drainage problems and reduce the visual appeal of a lawn.

Holes in the lawn should therefore be investigated, filled, and prevented.

How to Fill Holes in the Lawn

We have looked at reasons why you get small holes in your lawn overnight. Apart from controlling pests and keeping pets or children out of your lawn, you also need to fill the small holes in your lawn. Basically, you can do this using soil but you have to start with a few preparations.

  1. Using a shovel or a trowel, dig and remove the top layer of sod around the hole. Drive your tool down 4 inches into the soil and slide it under the grassroots, then lift the sod out of the area. If it’s a tunnel, dig as much as possible to uncover it.
  2. Fill the hole with topsoil as you compact it to approximately 3 inches below the ground surface level. If the area was not covered with grass, top it with soil to the level of the ground. A blend of topsoil and some decomposed composed will provide a good base for the establishment of grassroots.
  3. Replace the sod you removed to cover the bare spot. If the sod is not large enough to completely cover the area, then you may add some sod plugs obtained from other areas of the lawn.
  4. Thoroughly water the sod to help the grassroots establish quickly. Water twice a day until when the sod fully blends with the rest of the grass.

Final Thought

Small holes in the yard are inevitable and you should therefore be always ready to fix them and also solve the root cause of the problem. If it’s your pets or children creating the holes then you should provide them with alternative playing areas. If it’s wild animals causing the holes, then deter them from your lawn or remove what is attracting them there.


  1. Michigan State University Extension: Who’s that digging in my yard: Skunks, raccoons, or moles?
  2. Clemson University Cooperative Extension: Holes in the Lawn

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