It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, one of the most asked questions I get is how to control moles in a yard. With our climate in the Augusta area, moles are active almost year round. During really cold weather, they go deeper in the ground, but when we have warm spells in the winter, they come right back close to the surface and continue tunneling.
Getting rid of moles can be frustrating and difficult, but with a little patience, it can be done.
For instituting a control program, it helps to know a little about moles.
From the standpoint of how nature works, moles are considered a good animal. They feed on ground insects and aerate the soil. If they were off in the woods somewhere, you wouldn’t give them a second thought, but when they find your front yard, you typically want to get rid of them.
Moles are much different than mice. Mice breed repeatedly throughout the year, having four to seven young in a litter. Moles are almost infertile by comparison. They breed once a year and have three to four young. Mice eat mostly vegetative matter, but moles eat mainly insects and other tiny animals. Mice can see and are highly mobile above ground. Moles have tiny eyes covered by skin and can only distinguish between light and dark.
Moles spend much of their time in their burrow system a foot or more underground. There are one or more little “rooms” where they build nests. When the mole is hungry, which they are a lot, he moves through his tunnels to the upper few inches of soil. There he travels his shallow burrow system to a productive feeding area and begins to plow new ground.
Moles literally swim through the earth with their powerful hand like front feet that are equipped with long, flattened toenails. As the mole tunnels along just below the surface, his pointed nose is sniffing among the grass roots. He finds an earthworm here, a mole cricket there, and maybe he gets a fat juicy grub worm.
Moles get blamed for feeding on plant material such as bulbs, flowers, shrubs, and vegetables. The fact is their tunnels provide cover and lines of traffic for other mammal pests, mainly voles (orchard mice). The also get blamed for killing the grass but again they are not eating grass roots. The only potential damage to turfgrass is that by raising the grass during the summer it is more susceptible to drought conditions where the tunnels go.
Meanwhile, you are going crazy as the mole is making all these burrows through your yard. If you can’t bear the thought of killing a mole, you might try starving him out. Sometimes applications of insecticides on your lawn will decrease the insects available for him to eat, so he will go somewhere else (like your neighbor’s yard). On the other hand this might not work. You have about a 40 percent chance of this working. If you have a lot of earthworms in your lawn, which is good of course, insecticides won’t kill them.
Trapping is probably the best way to eliminate moles. Two of the more common ones you may find in garden stores are the Victor and Tomcat Mole Traps. Before you set the trap you need to go out and press down all the runways at intervals of several feet. Then place a bottle cap, stone or any small marker at those exact spots. The next day check those locations. If the mole has not passed through and mole hill is still flat, pick up the marker. If the mole has raised the hill again, flatten and put another marker.
After four or five days, you will know which runways the mole uses every day. This is the key to where to put the trap. The more permanent or active tunnels most often run along fences, plant rows, borders, or protected places and lead to feeding areas. While moles may be found in many different soil types, moist, shaded areas seem to be favored.
Take your trap and set it over the flattened runway but make sure the trap legs straddle the runway, not block it. Moles are suspicious of any foreign objects in their runways.
There are several baits, poisons, and all kinds of home remedies people use for moles. A bait that may be effective is the fake poisonous worms. They are made to look like earthworms, a favorite of moles. But just like the traps, you have to establish which runways are used on a regular basis. Then there are the poison peanuts. They typically don’t work because peanuts don’t look like an insect so moles won’t eat them. A common home remedy is Juicy Fruit chewing gum. Most people say it doesn’t work while others swear by it. There are also spikes that make a vibrating sound. There is one in particular, Sweeney’s Solar Powered Spikes, that may provide some relief. But control is erratic as while they may work in one yard, they don’t in others.
If you have no luck in your mole control and you don’t want to live with them, then you can always call a professional to take care of them for you.