Description: There are six species of moles living in North America where by far the most common lawn and garden pest is the Eastern Mole (Scalepus acquaticus). Classified as insectivores, they tunnel year round in their below-ground network (often using each tunnel only once) searching for earthworms, larvae (grubs) and other insects on which they feed.
Controlling moles is not always necessary, as they do not eat plants. However, their tunnels can be a problem as they push up mounds of earth and often harm the root systems of growing plants.
Moles are a small (7 inches long, including tail), usually gray or brown mammal, that can be distinguished from meadow voles, gophers, and shrews by their naked, pointed nose. They have small eyes and ears, which are concealed by fur and large spade-like front feet that serve them well for digging. The Eastern Mole is a big eater and can consume 70-80% of its own body weight in insects every day!
Note: If you can tolerate their burrows, moles will control insects and aerate your soil.
Life Cycle: Moles live a solitary life, only tolerating others during mating season. Breeding takes place during the spring between early February and late March depending on your locale. After a 4-6 week pregnancy, the single litter is born usually consisting of 3-5 hairless pups. By mid summer, the young are able to care for themselves. Females reach sexual maturity the following growing season.
Mole Control: Many solutions are available to home gardeners, but nothing is absolutely foolproof. Here are some suggestions:
Trapping: The most effective and reliable method of mole control – but patience and persistence are needed! The best time to trap is early spring when tunnels are first noticed, or after the first fall rains. Determine which tunnels are active before setting traps. These can be located by flattening the run, marking the location, and checking to see if the tunnel is raised within a day or two. Traps work well because they capitalize on the mole’s natural instinct to clear an obstructed tunnel.
Eliminate Grubs: In lawns, moles feed heavily on soil dwelling insects such as Japanese beetle grubs. The “Spikes of Death” Lawn Aerator Sandals, Milky Spore and/or beneficial nematodes can be used to eliminate these pests and will generally decrease tunneling or feeding activity. However, if your soil is healthy, moles may still feed on earthworms after the grubs are gone.
Repellents: Often containing natural castor oil, repellents work well to rid burrowing animals from lawns, gardens and other planting areas. Apply when tunnels or cone shaped mounds appear in soil from early spring to late fall.
Barriers: Dig a trench roughly 6 inches wide and two feet deep. Fill it with rock or line it with wire to prevent burrowing pests from invading garden areas.
Ultrasonic Devices: Which don’t play music, but, instead produce a penetrating underground sonic pulse that drives underground rodents crazy. Pets won’t be affected but pests find the noise irritating and move to quieter surroundings. Kind of like playing “Heavy Metal” for your grandmother who loves Lawrence Welk.
Tip: Don’t bother with common remedies such as repellent plants, chewing gum, mothballs, broken bottles, flooding and laxatives placed in their burrows – studies have shown that these substances are ignored.
Note: There are few natural predators of this garden pest because of their subterranean habits and musky odor. Snakes, owls, and fox are probably their biggest threat.