Q: Beginning in late May, we have had moles tunneling in our lawn. We have tried bombs, metal contraptions, and poisonous liquids to no avail. Now, we are preparing to aerate and reseed fescue for fall and don’t want to prepare a nice, green yard for the moles to destroy again. What should we do?
A: The mole population peaks at the beginning of autumn so it’s no wonder you’re having trouble. You could have one or a half dozen subterranean tunnelers. You probably already know that they eat only insects, not plants, but their tunnels are unsightly. The tunnels might also be used by voles, a small rodent who does eat plants, particularly hosta, so it might be a good idea to have another go at mole control.
Moles dig both surface tunnels, which they use for daily travel, and deep tunnels, where they snooze and rear young. Your first task is to find the surface tunnels that are used most frequently. One technique is walk along a visible tunnel and press it down with your show every five feet. Stick a white golf tee in each mashed down spot to make it easy to find. Next day, ramble across the yard for an inspection. The tunnel sections that have been raised overnight are where you should begin your control attempts.
Some laissez faire gardeners say that the only thing you should do is to mash down the active tunnels completely and force the mole to move to more hospitable yards. That is certainly a viable option and perhaps a good source of income for an impecunious sixteen-year old with size twelve shoes. It is difficult to live trap a mole but you can try burying an open-mouthed three-pound coffee can in the path of a tunnel and hope a mole falls in.
Lethal traps are available at local hardware stores and are more certain. The most common, a harpoon-like contraption is placed over an active tunnel. It kills the mole as it passes underneath. If you are unsuccessful after two days, move the trap to another active tunnel.
Plenty of folk remedies have been proposed for mole control. The following do not, repeat DO NOT, work:
•Insecticide treatments to the lawn
Products containing castor oil have recently been touted to repel moles but little research supports their effectiveness. Castor bean plant is extolled to repel moles but no known research supports this either.
For an excellent guide to mole control, the Missouri Extension Service has a publication available at their Web site:
Dec. 30, 1994
Q: What can I do about moles ? They are really making trails in my lawn!
A: Moles are active now as they fatten up for their winter rest. They eat a multitude of soil insects: earthworms, grubs, caterpillars, pillbugs, etc. Insecticides are sometimes recommended – thinking that eliminating the mole’s food will cause him to move. In fact, no insecticide can kill all of the insects. In fact, the animal may cause more damage looking for scarcer food resources. Poison peanuts are not effective because moles do not eat peanuts. Smoke bombs do not penetrate enough to reach an entire runway. Traps are one answer. Follow the directions in order to find the runways the mole is actively using and set the trap there. Some homeowners say that regularly flattening the runways will eventually drive the mole to seek other living quarters. An energetic terrier puppy will find every mole you have – but your lawn will look like the surface of the moon!