By Paul James
A post about moles may seem decidedly unromantic on Valentine’s Day, but bear with me. You see moles are making their moves, so to speak, evidenced by their extensive tunneling. And while they’re certainly on the hunt for food, they’re also hunting for a mate. Yes, my friends, it’s mole mating season, the most romantic time of the year for moles.
The tunnels you see aboveground are known as runways, in which moles feed and also 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.
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.
A vast array of runways may cause you to think that there are dozens of moles in your yard, but in fact moles are very territorial, and rarely are there more than three in an entire acre (except perhaps this time of year) so typically the average-size yard is harboring only one. Of course, even one can be a nuisance.
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 could 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.
Regardless of the method you try, you don’t want to wait much longer. That’s because the gestation period for a female mole is about 45 days, which means a new generation of moles will be here around April 1. No fooling.