Armadillos are a unique mammal that many recognize thanks to their unique armored shell that allows them to curl up in a ball and become completely protected. However, the behavior of these animals is just as interesting as their exterior appearance.
Armadillos are nocturnal animals, meaning they are most active during the night. During this time, especially early evening and early morning, armadillos will spend their time foraging, working on their burrow, searching for others of their species, and more as they enjoy the cooler temperatures.
Continue reading for an in-depth look at armadillos, their nocturnal habits, and some handy tips to repel them if they are wreaking havoc on your yard.
Why Armadillos Are Primarily Active At Night
Armadillos spend most of their day in their burrows, avoiding the heat and enjoying the protection of their home and armor. During the night, they will take care of their home and themselves.
This article will focus primarily on the nine-banded armadillos, now native to the United States after migrating here in the late 1800s. There are 19 more species of armadillo native to South America in addition to the nine-banded.
Most armadillos species share habitats in warm, temperate climates with lots of open space, including semi-deserts and grasslands, although a few species prefer forested areas.
There are a few reasons why these critters might be in your yard, and we have a guide on why armadillos are in your yard (and what to do) which you may also find useful if you’re having issues with them!
They Have Special Adaptations To Help Them Function At Night
Nocturnal describes those most active during the night and have special adaptations that help them thrive in low light. Armadillos have these adaptations to help them see at night and are most active during this time.
During the night, armadillos will spend their time doing everyday survival, such as searching for food, water, shelter, and mates. All of these different activities will be covered in more depth later in the article, giving you a better look into the behavior of armadillos.
During the day, an armadillo is happy to spend time just sleeping in its burrow, unbothered by the outside world. They are primarily solitary animals and will spend their time alone unless mating or in freezing weather.
Armadillos Can Still Be Active During Morning And Evening
Nocturnal animals are not only active at night, as you might see armadillos active during the day, especially early morning and evening. Depending on what is going on in their environment, armadillos might have to be active during any time of day, although this is not their preference.
During winter and the coldest parts of fall and spring, armadillos will be more likely to be active during the day because heat plays a big part in their nocturnal behavior.
Without fur insulation or good ways to regulate their body heat that other mammals have, armadillos constantly need cool places such as the underground. The shell of an armadillo does not provide much insulation and is made of keratin, the same material as your nails are made from.
Armadillos Use Their Burrows To Escape The Heat
As mentioned above, armadillos do not do well in the heat and use their underground burrows to escape the sun. The earth’s insulation allows armadillos to take advantage of the naturally cool underground temperatures.
Even during the hottest parts of summer, underground temperatures can remain in the 60s and 70s, an ideal temperature for armadillos. The soil’s thermal mass helps stop the heat during the summer and keeps the warmth in during the winter.
Living underground is a much more comfortable environment for most mammals since it reduces the energy they need to burn to regulate their temperature.
What Do Armadillos Do At Night?
Since Armadillos are most active during the night, the next logical question is: what are they up to? Below we’ll cover this in-depth, but to quickly summarize, they do the same things at night that most animals do during the day; search for food, work on their shelter, and find partners.
1. They Search For Food!
At night armadillos will spend most of their time searching for food when they are outside their burrow. Armadillos are primarily insectivores, but their diet can also include fruit, vegetables, seed, and other protein.
Most of an armadillo’s time at night will be spent searching for food, and it takes them a long time to find it. Armadillos are not built for speed, averaging about half a mile per hour.
According to the University of Georgia Extension, the nine-banded armadillo is not a picky eater. While 99% of their diet consists of insects, they have also been known to eat small mammals, reptiles, and even birds when they get the chance.
2. They Might Search For Other Armadillos At Night
Between June and August, armadillos will spend some of their time searching for a mate to breed with, where the females will have one litter per year. Armadillo breeding is unique compared to many mammals.
When a female armadillo is pregnant, she will have a gestation period of four months and four babies at the end. From Texas Parks and Wildlife, not only do armadillos almost always have quadruplets, but these babies are identical to one another.
Armadillo babies start from one egg that is fertilized and separated into four identical embryos, meaning they will all be genetically the same. The mother will raise her young alone for three or four months, after which they will be on their own.
3. At Night Armadillos Might Spend Time Working On Their Burrow
An armadillo’s burrow is an essential part of its survival, so they are likely to spend a portion of its time expanding and improving on it, especially if it is close to breeding season.
Armadillos use their burrows to escape hot weather, so it would make no sense to work on them during the hot summer hours. Thanks to adaptations that give them excellent hearing and a sense of smell, armadillos can move around at night and spend their time digging in the soil to build their home.
While burrowing armadillos are also at their most vulnerable, doing this at night will limit the number of predators and pose a threat to them. This is another essential adaptation that improves the species’ long-term survival.
4. Armadillos Are Prone To Search Through Trash And Compost
Armadillos are one of many species that have adapted well to living alongside humans, and many of them know where to find food near people.
One such place is in compost piles.
If you have a compost pile outside your home and a problem with armadillos near your home, this may be a part of the problem. Composting can provide insects and discarded food that armadillos will be interested in as part of their diet.
One easy solution is to use a composter such as this 43-gallon VIVOSUN tumbling composter that uses a hard shell raised off the ground, preventing armadillos from accessing the food inside.
Armadillos may also be interested in regular trash cans, so make sure these are locked up and out of the reach of the armadillos to help keep them away from what’s inside. Armadillos cannot climb or jump well, which makes it easy to keep them out of certain areas.
5. They Will Spend Most Of Their Time Searching For Insects
Insects make up 99% of an armadillo’s diet, so it makes sense that they will spend most of their time searching for these morsels. Using their powerful sense of smell and body built for digging, armadillos can track down insects and get to them easily.
Armadillos have a tongue built for catching insects with a sticky, hook-shaped tongue that is ideal for picking up insects. Armadillos will root in areas where insects are and use their tongue to catch them.
Most of the insects that armadillos eat are the larval form of beetles, wasps, moths, as well as ants and earthworms. These food sources will vary based on what is seasonally available.
Armadillos will also pick out any other food sources they find along their path in search of insects and can include all forms of plant matter and other scavenged food sources.
What To Do If You’re Finding Armadillos At Night
Thankfully, if you have a problem with armadillos, they can easily repel and prevent future problems. Repelling them can be done by taking advantage of their powerful sense of smell, relocation, or general physical deterrents depending on the severity of your problem and personal preference.
1. Relocate Them Far Away From Your House!
The University of Georgia Extension recommends trapping armadillos with a trap like this HomGarden10 x 12 x 32-inch live trap. Live traps are perfect for armadillos because they are easy to lure and relocate for a harmless pest control method.
UGA Extension recommends using 1 x 6 boards as a funnel leading into the trap to increase the rate you’ll catch the armadillos. Since they are not animals that climb much, the 6” height of the boards is plenty to direct them toward the trap.
Traps can also be set directly in front of a burrow, without bait, and will still be an effective technique for capturing and relocating armadillos. Thanks to an armadillo’s poor eyesight, they are unlikely to notice the trap and will walk right in if they are guided in.
We also have a guide on watching for the specific signs of armadillos in your yard (and how to find them) that you can use.
2. Use Vinegar – Armadillos Hate It!
Armadillos have sensitive noses, resulting in a wide variety of smells they cannot stand. Vinegar and mothballs are easily effective methods that can be spread throughout your property to help repel armadillos.
Strong spices such as cayenne pepper mixed with water and used as a spray have also been shown to repel armadillos from a targeted area effectively. Castor oil can be used the same way, spraying it near possible food sources.
The third option for smells is the use of coyote scent, and using that to scare armadillos away. Since they rely on their sense of smell to avoid predators having the presence of predator’s urine is one way to keep armadillos away.
For a deeper look, refer to our piece on the 8 scents that armadillos hate (and how to use them.)
3. Use A Buried Fence Around Your Yard To Keep Armadillos Out
A fence around your property is one of the best ways to keep armadillos out of a particular area. The fence does not need to be more than a foot tall, but it should be buried at least twelve inches underground to deter them from digging under it.
Armadillos are efficient diggers but are not usually very determined, so once they encounter the fence after digging a few inches, they are likely to move on. The added benefit of using a fence to keep armadillos out is that other pests will also be excluded.
Installing a fence can be done either around problem areas only, such as gardens and compost piles, or around the whole property if the armadillos are causing more significant problems.
4. Eliminate Their Food Sources
One of the best ways to keep pests away is by removing their food sources to repel them. For armadillos, this can include removing insects, trash, and plant matter.
Eliminating insects can be done by removing leaf debris, keeping things off the ground, and using natural repellants to keep them away. These steps will massively reduce insect populations and make your property less appealing to armadillos.
Locking up trash and compost will similarly prevent armadillos from being able to access these areas where they might find food and encourage them to search in other areas for their meals.
Keeping armadillos out of gardens is the third way to limit their food access and make your area less hospitable. As mentioned above, fences work well for this, or using raised garden beds in the future can also keep armadillos out.
5. Use Wood Chips Or Other Materials That Are Difficult To Dig Through
Armadillos are fabulous at digging through the soil, but other materials are difficult to create a home in. Using wood chips or gravel is two easy ways to keep armadillos out of a specific area.
A 1.5 to 2-inch layer of wood chips is sufficient to prevent armadillos from digging in that area since the wood chips make it difficult for them to dig. Gravel will work similarly well, as the hard materials are nearly impossible for the armadillos to move.
If you have issues with armadillos digging holes in your yard, making it impossible for them to dig is the best way to keep them from doing it. While wood chips or gravel might not be possible in all circumstances, it is an excellent method to keep in mind.
6. Contact A Professional
Sometimes you might have a stubborn armadillo and don’t have the time or resources to deal with them effectively. In these cases, a professional pest control agent can safely remove the problem and offer methods to prevent future problems.
Compared to many pests, armadillos are not dangerous or super destructive, but they can still pose a problem with their digging, which can be a headache for many homeowners.
Here is a resource to find wildlife control near you. Contacting a professional is the best way to deal with pest problems without risking causing other problems accidentally or doing something wrong.
Thanks For Reading!
Thank you for reading! Hopefully, this article answered your questions about whether armadillos are nocturnal, what they do at night, and how to deal with armadillos if you have a problem with them in your yard.
Now for a quick recap –
Armadillos are nocturnal, and at night they will spend their time:
- Searching for food
- Looking for mates
- Working on their burrows
- Digging through your trash and compost
- Searching for insects
Armadillos can be a tricky pest in many Southern states, but thankfully compared to a lot of other pests can be easy to treat and deter.
DeGregorio, B. A., Gale, C., Lassiter, E., Massey, A., Roberts, C. P., & Veon, J. (2021). Nine‐banded armadillo (dasypus novemcinctus) activity patterns are influenced by human activity. Ecology and Evolution, 11(22), 15874–15881. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.8257
Feng, X., & Papeş, M. (2014). Ecological niche modeling confirms potential north-east range expansion of the nine-banded armadillo (dasypus novemcinctus) in the USA. Journal of Biogeography, 42(4), 803–807. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.12427
Mengak, M. T. (2006, June 1). Natural history series: Nine-banded armadillo. The University of Georgia Extension. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C866-2
Restrepo, A., McEwen, J. G., & Castañeda, E. (2001). The habitat of paracoccidioides brasiliensis: How far from solving the riddle? Medical Mycology, 39(3), 233–241. https://doi.org/10.1080/714031028
Texas Park And Wildlife Foundation. (n.d.). Nine-banded armadillo (dasypus novemcinctus). Texas Park And Wildlife. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/dillo/
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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