If you’re reading this blog, you are undoubtedly the victim of one of the most mysterious little invaders to cross your path – the humble mole. There are few things more irritating than a mole in your front lawn. And worse, the most garden-proud are the most likely victims, as the care and attention these people give to their lawns, make them the residence of choice for this little pest.
There are countless sworn methods of getting rid of a mole from chewing gum to gassing, but the only real answer is to invest in a reliable trap. Let’s talk about those in a while.
The only mole present in the United Kingdom (but not Ireland) is Talpa Europea, the European Mole. Most people think that moles are completely black, but they vary in colour from a silvery grey to black. They have a short tail which is covered in sensory hairs, which also appear around the chin, on the face and the back of the ears. When the mole is working, the tail is held semi-erect in order to brush the tunnel walls and pick up vibrations. These sensory organs around the head allow the mole to detect worms and insects.
Moles are territorial and live in complex tunnel systems which they will defend aggressively from other moles. This is rarely necessary as moles are generally solitary animals. This is good news as it means you invariably have only one, possibly two moles invading your lawn, making eradication less daunting. Territories do overlap and a vacant territory will be inhabited by a vagrant mole so you can be sure that curing your mole problem one year does not make you immune to a new inhabitant in subsequent years. Male moles seek females in early spring, a time when moles are more colonial. The female will have one litter a year, of usually 3-4 babies. The young are mature at five weeks and will live from 2-5 years. The babies are born in a chamber anywhere between five and eighteen inches underground and is frequently found beneath a stone, tree or patio.
Moles are unable to store food or fat and are consequently active throughout the year. As the temperature drops and the ground cools, the mole will burrow into deeper tunnel systems to escape the cold. Surface activity reduces to a minimum giving the false impression that moles hibernate. They are active throughout the day and have a pattern of activity that appears to be four hours working and four hours of rest.
Moles are carnivores but they are very adaptable in their diet. Earthworms comprise the staple foodsource, but they are happy to eat grubs, larvae, beetles, snails and slugs. They do not ingest vegetable matter by choice. The culprit guilty of nibbling your garden bulbs is much more likely to be a mouse.
Their natural habitat is historically woodland, but they have adapted readily to suburban lawns where the soil quality if moist, loose and loamy particularly suits their excavation criteria. A tunnel system can span an acre in a residential setting and further in wooded areas. Mole tunnelling can be classified into two different types – shallow and deep. Interconnected shallow and haphazard tunnels serve as a canteen in their search for food. These areas are mushy to walk on and are very damaging to lawns as they separate the root system from the soil. They also construct surface runways which connect feeding areas and usually appear as ridges in the ground.
Deep tunnels used more when the weather turns colder also connect feeding areas. They are constructed as straight paths and are visible on the surface only by a sequence of raised mounds, the molehill. Moles patrol these areas frequently and eat the insects that have collected there. Nests are always built above the water table, but moles are excellent swimmers and will swim to higher ground in times of flooding. People who live next to streams and rivers are often plagued by moles. The very large fortress mounds often appear in areas where the water table is high or on land that can become flooded. These mounds themselves contain a series of tunnels.
Getting rid of your mole
There are many methods used by desperate homeowners to rid themselves of a mole, but trapping is really the only reliable option. Contrary to popular belief the following DO NOT WORK!
Planting chewing gum in the ground when the first molehills appear will not get rid of your mole. The intention, apparently, is to cause a terminal blockage in the intestines of the mole with as many sticks of chewing gum as it will take. The problem with this remedy is that the mole is unlikely to be interested in the chewing gum at all. Even if it did take a piece, it does not have the right type of teeth to chew the gum (they are small and pointy).
Although clouting an unsuspecting mole about the head with a sharp object will undoubtedly rid you of your problem, it is about as pointless as watching grass grow. I did speak to a customer who had been lucky enough to see the perpetrator of his wrecked lawn while enjoying a relaxing cup of coffee. He did take to it with a shovel and did achieve his aim, but his antics while trying to catch his prey were comical to say the least (they run really fast above ground)and now a year down the line he has another resident and this time decided a trap would be more appropriate. The bottom line is that hours will be frittered away watching for the troublemaker that never appears and none of us have time for that.
You might think that a mole is much like a rodent so poison bait could be the answer, but you would be wrong. Poison baits are grain based and grain does not feature in a mole’s diet. They do not have the dentition to gnaw seeds the way a rat or mouse does. It is also very irresponsible to scatter bait randomly near molehills for fear of poisoning non-target species.
There are multiple drawbacks to this approach. Tunnel systems are very complex so the chances are the gas will not even reach the moles. Next, the soil absorbs gas relatively quickly further hampering its effectiveness. Some researchers have found that moles are able to wall off sections of tunnel to keep out an escaped gas. Finally, moles have the ability to fix oxygen at extremely low partial pressures and can breathe easier than many other mammals.
You may be lucky enough to flush a mole out long enough to hit it over the head with something, but as previously mentioned, moles are good swimmers and are unlikely to drown. When the flooding has receded they will return to their tunnels
They just don’t work. Period.
The ONLY way to rid yourself of a mole is to trap it.
Arm yourself with an effective mole trap, such as the Talpirid Mole Trap, read up on how to set it and the battle will be easily won. The scissor-style design of this trap will allow you to trap moles in the deep tunnels near molehills as well as the shallow runs. Choose the site, grab a garden spade or lawn edger and make a slit in the soil for the “scissors” to sit in, then press down on the yellow foot pedal. The trap is set hands free and the pedal will pop up when the trap has been activated. It is quick and easy to set, and can be re-sited with little effort. Take a look at these instructions and see how easy it is. A cheaper variation is the Talpex Scissor Mole Trap. You may choose to use the Duffus Mole Trap, which requires a lot more digging. You will need to insert a stick into the ground about 2 feet from a molehill to determine where the tunnel is. (You will feel the stick give and then bottom). Dig a hole big enough to take the trap (about 6″) and deep enough to reach the tunnel. Set the trap and insert into the tunnel. Cover the hole with a slate tile or similar and leave the trap for up to three days, after which time it is unlikely to be successful and will need relocating.
Which trap to choose?
Basically, if your lawn is covered with lots of molehills, then a tunnel trap such as the Duffus would be best. If, however, you see the ground being forced up in long meandering lumps, then the scissor-type trap is best. Whichever method you decide on, good luck with trapping your mole!!
“‘Mole,’ said the Badger, in his dry, quiet way, ‘I perceive you have more sense in your little finger than some other animals have in the whole of their fat bodies.'”
K. Grahame, The Wind in the Willows