Is mole damage to your lawn and garden causing mounting frustration? Here are the most effective ways to control moles and reduce turf and ornamental bed damage.
Most people have never seen a mole, but they are well aware of the damage caused to lawns and ornamental beds. Mounds of soil (called molehills) and surface tunnels (also called feeding runways) are the common signs that moles are present. Learning to use repellents, traps and baits and making use of a broom handle or a similar stick can greatly reduce mole activity in as little as three hours.
Moles' polydactyl hands each have an extra thumb bone that develops in the wrist and stretches along the real thumb. While this is an irregularity for most land vertebrates, it is the norm with moles.
(Photo by Agnieszka Kwiecień )
Many gardeners believe the presence of moles is due to the presence of white grubs. Often a gardener’s first reaction is to apply a grub insecticide when mole activity begins in spring. While moles do feed on white grubs, their primary food source is earthworms. Many grub insecticides are known to reduce beneficial earthworm populations. While mole activity might decrease due to the depletion of earthworms, in time, the earthworms and moles will return. Therefore, grub insecticides should not be used for mole control.
Moles construct feeding tunnels on the surface of lawns and ornamental beds at a rate of 1 foot per minute. Mole activity increases when soils are moist and earthworms are near the soil’s surface. Earthworms constitute 85 percent of a mole’s diet, and a mole consumes 70 to 80 percent of its body weight daily. Moles also feed and rest on two-hour cycles, 24 hours a day. It now becomes obvious why so much damage can occur in such little time.
Mole repellents usually contain castor bean oil as the active ingredient. Repellents need to be applied on a regular basis as a spray or granular application. They can be effective if application rates, frequency and techniques are strictly followed according to the label. Several brands of mole repellents are available, including Chase Mole and Gopher Repellent™, Liquid Fence® Mole Repellent, Molemax® Mole and Vole Repellent, Mole Out™ Granular Repellent, Mole Scram™ Mole Repellent, Scoot® Mole Repellent and and Molexit Mole Repellent.
Trapping and Baiting
Moles will feed and rest on two-hour cycles daily in search of earthworms and other insects. This high activity makes trapping and baiting effective methods for mole control. The key to successful trapping and baiting is locating active feeding runways.
Trapping and baiting are the best methods for mole control due to the feeding habits of moles. Their frequent feeding allows effective trapping and baiting in just a few hours.
Effective traps include the “Easy Set” Mole Eliminator®, the Victor Mole Trap (Spear Type) and the Nash Choker Loop Mole Trap. Available baits include Kaput Mole Gel Bait, Bonide Moletox Baited Gel, Talpirid ™, Motomco Mole Bait and TomCat Mole Killer.
Keep in mind that moles are a perennial problem. When a void in the carrying capacity (number of moles a given area can support) of a yard is realized, more moles will move in searching for earthworms and insects. For this reason, trapping is the most economical method of mole control.
The following steps will increase your success for controlling moles:
• Use a broom handle or a similar stick to poke holes through the top of feeding tunnels at random throughout the tunnel network.
• Revisit those holes in two to three hours and inspect them. A hole replugged with soil indicates a mole passed through that feeding tunnel making it an active feeding tunnel for that day. Not all feeding tunnels are used daily.
• Set traps on, or insert baits into, active feeding tunnels. Use rubber gloves to set traps or insert baits to reduce human scent.
• Continue to trap and bait until activity ceases. Controlling a few moles in an average size lawn (about 5,000 square feet) will greatly reduce mole activity.
(From State-by-State Gardening May/June 2011.)