COLUMBIA, Mo. – Follow the food.
That is the mantra of moles as they follow their favorite food, earthworms, and tunnel throughout your yard.
A molehill creates an upheaval of soil surrounding a vertical tunnel shaft, which often occurs after big rains, that is an exit point for moles to get some air, says University of Missouri Extension turf pathologist Lee Miller. Both tunnels and molehills can trap falling worms and serve as fast-food drive-thru lanes for moles.
These pesky mammals usually do most of their furrowing and burrowing in spring and fall, but excess rainfall can trigger activity at other times.
Moles alternate between sleeping and being active every two hours, but do not mistake them as sluggish. The velvety creatures are lightning fast, Miller says. They are voracious eaters, consuming 75%-80% of their body weight daily. Their strong forepaws have an extra thumb, and they can dig a foot a minute when in hot pursuit of food.
Moles are often maligned for destroying flowers and ornamentals. Actually, the damage comes from their tunnels, which can expose roots to air, causing them to dry and die, says Miller. Some homeowners try in vain to rid their lawns of moles by applying grub control insecticides, thereby depriving moles of food, but earthworms are their main food source.
Three main controls exist for moles, Miller says. The key to all of them is to find active runways. Take a wooden dowel or stick and collapse a number of areas along the runway system, flagging them to track their location. Remember that moles feed and rest in two-hour cycles, so check back in three to four hours for areas that mole activity has pushed upward. Place controls along these active runways.
1. Repellents. Give the moles to your neighbor. Many repellents sold at nurseries and garden centers contain castor bean oil. Control can last one to three months, but rain or irrigation often shortens control. Follow label directions.
2. Baits. These prove effective, particularly ones that are shaped—and some even claim to be flavored—like earthworms. Wear rubber gloves when handling to protect yourself and avoid putting your own scent on the bait. Keep children and pets away from the rodenticide. Follow label directions carefully.
3. Trapping. This remains the most effective and efficient means of control. Several trap types exist. Among the more effective types are scissor-type traps. They can be stepped on to open trap along the runway. A plate on top enables the scissors to snap shut when the mole pushes soil back up against it.
For more information, go to ipm.missouri.edu/MEG/2011/10/What-a-Season-for-Moles-and-Voles.
Photo available for this release:
Moles use their large forelimbs to excavate tunnels. Photo by Kenneth Catania, Vanderbilt University, CC BY-SA 3.0.