By Paul James
Been noticing a lot of mole tunnels popping up in your yard lately? That’s because a new generation of moles, born in April and May, has matured and is busy staking out new territory. The good news is that moles are very territorial, and rarely are there more than three in an entire acre, except perhaps during the late-winter mating season, so typically the average-size yard is harboring only one. The bad news of course is that even one can be a nuisance.
Fortunately, moles don’t eat plants (voles and gophers do, but that’s another story). Instead, they prefer a steady diet of primarily white grubs and earthworms, which they consume in huge quantities as they tunnel through lawns and gardens. It’s those tunnels – indicated by raised sections of dirt or grass -- that announce their presence, although they occasionally leave behind above-ground mounds of dirt as well.
The tunnels you can see are known as runways, in which moles feed and use as pathways to deeper tunnels and their lairs. They may use the runways for several days so long as food is present, or they might abandon them after only one day of digging if food isn’t present, only to immediately create another.
So just how do you go about controlling moles? Well you could do nothing, and embrace the mole’s presence, knowing that he or she is gobbling up the grubs that might ultimately become Japanese beetles and attack your roses, and aerating the soil in the process.
You could try repellents, nearly all of which contain castor oil and do a pretty good job of moving moles elsewhere assuming you follow the label instructions to the letter and reapply after heavy rains. I’ve actually had excellent results with repellents.
You could use harpoon-style traps, which if placed properly can be highly effective, if not a tad gruesome.
You could hire an exterminator. They don’t come cheap, and some don’t even guarantee that they’ll be successful, but folks in my neighborhood who’ve relied on their services have been pleased with the results.
You could try poisons, but realize that moles aren’t likely to eat anything that doesn’t resemble a grub or earthworm, so poisons that control mice and other critters won’t work. Even the poison “worms” are only marginally effective at best, because moles can tell the difference between real and fake worms.
And finally, you consider any number of different home remedies, from stuffing tunnels with dog or cat hair to flooding the tunnels to using Juicy Fruit gum (which the moles are said to eat, but are unable to digest). Just keep in mind that the effectiveness of these approaches is purely anecdotal, with no basis whatsoever in science.