It’s possible to successfully eliminate moles from lawns and gardens, but it takes a lot of patience. You might need to try various methods before you find the right one to control moles in your yard. Moles live practically completely underground in a large network of connecting tunnels.
They often make shallow tunnels below the surface where they catch invertebrates such as worms and insects. Moles may rarely eat bulbs, roots and other plant materials.
Their burrowing activity dislodges plants and causes the roots to dry out. The resulting raised ridges and mole mounds damage the lawn.
Moles have a cylindrical body, pointed snout, velvety fur, sparsely haired or bare tails, and short limbs. Their ears are not visible and they have poor eyesight. Moles usually have one litter of 3 to 4 young every year.
These critters are antisocial, so don’t be surprised to find only one mole for every tunnel. The only exception is during their breeding season, which usually takes place during spring and fall.
Surface runways and mounds are signs of a mole infestation. These mounds are created when the mole pushes up dirt to the surface from an underground runway. Greatest mole activity usually happens after watering events or rainfall because it’s easier for these critters to dig new tunnels.
Management of Moles
Moles can cause unsightly damage to garden areas or landscape. Their burrowing activity destroys plants and makes maintenance of lawns difficult. As soon as you notice a surface runway or active mound, it’s important to implement proper control measures.
After controlling the damage, you should set up a monitoring system to prevent a reinfestation in the future. You may need to combine different mole control methods.
Setting traps is the most dependable and generally applicable mole control method. There are different types of mole traps. Understanding the behaviour of moles can help improve the trap’s efficiency.
- Setting the trap to catch moles underground.
When they smell a foreign object in the tunnel, they are likely to dig under or around the object. Traps must be set to encircle or straddle the tunnel. The trap can also be suspended above the tunnel.
- Moles can be trapped anytime.
Before you set mole traps, you should determine the active mole runways. Moles dig deep tunnels that they more or less permanently use.
- Set traps on active mounds or tunnels.
They also dig surface runs that are mostly used for hunting food. Since some of these surface tunnels are temporary, these may not be good areas for setting traps. Moles use deep runways almost permanently, so you may want to place traps in these tunnels.
Press down short portions of mounds and surface runways to determine where these critters are active. Observe these spots every day and press down raised sections. Take note of mole activity areas. Choose a runway that’s often used.
Set a trap at least 18" from a mole mound and only in frequently used runways. Use a pointed stick, gopher probe, or slender metal rod to probe between or next to a new mound. This will help you find deeper tunnels.
Since mole traps are quite expensive, most people usually purchase only one. Using one trap may solve your mole problem. However, you can still consider adding more traps to improve the overall success and speed of your trapping program.
Types of Traps
Two major kinds of mole traps are usually used in California – the scissor-jaw and the harpoon type. Follow the instructions provided by trap manufacturers.
Scissor-jaw traps can be set in the main underground tunnel, usually 8" to 12" below the surface. Remove about 6" of soil using a small shovel or garden trowel.
Build a dirt plug in the middle of the opened tunnel. This will give the trigger pan something to rest on. You can squeeze moist soil from a nearby new mound or an opened tunnel together to make the plug.
Wedge the trap firmly into the tunnel. The trigger should be placed securely against the top of the plug. Sprinkle loose soil onto the trap to almost the same level as the top of the burrow.
This way, the mole will be less wary of the trap. Set the trap by releasing the safety catch.
Harpoon traps are ideal in deeper tunnels if set on a plug of soil. You can also set it on the surface over active runway ridges.
Materials like razor blades, broken glass, mothballs, bleach, human hair, castor oil, and lye placed in the burrows can drive moles away. Vibrating windmills, whistling bottles, mole wheels, and other “frightening” devices may help repel moles as well.
You can also plant Euphorbia lathyris or mole plant to keep moles away from your garden. Electrical devices that produce sound or vibrate soil or do both are often recommended for mole control. However, none of these methods has proved successful in driving moles away from an area or preventing mole damage.
You can also find a commercial mole repellent like castor oil solutions. According to research, castor oil commercial repellents have shown some efficiency for eastern moles. No research, however, has been conducted on moles in the western US.
The effectiveness of commercial repellents on these species is unclear. Repellents move moles from one place to another by dissuading them from entering the area where the product is applied. This method may have limited use in residential areas since repelled moles will just move to adjacent gardens and lawns.
Using grain-based baits to deal with moles is seldom effective because they mostly eat insects and earthworms. New toxic control methods better imitate the natural food source of moles. You can find worm-shaped gels that contain bromethalin, which you can place directly into the burrow.
Comprehensive testing is still required to better determine the effectiveness of such products. However, limited studies have shown that gel-type baits are more effective than grain baits. Follow the instructions on the label when applying toxic baits.
Some people look for moving ridges that appear when moles dig surface runs. If you see such actions, you can use a shovel to remove the mole. You may get temporary relief from moles by installing vertical underground barriers.
If there are plants in the garden, you can bury a ¼" wire mesh or a hardware cloth in a 6" wide and 2' deep trench. There should be an extra 6" lip mesh twisted at a 90⁰ angle away from the plants. The lip mesh will prevent moles from burrowing under the fence.
About 6" of the fence must protrude aboveground to prevent aboveground dispersal. Burying wire is both time-consuming and difficult. Try using stainless steel or galvanized wires for extending the lifespan of the fence.However, the exclusionary fence isn’t perfect because tenacious moles can ultimately find a way to dig around the fence. Removal methods might be needed to completely get rid of moles that enter the exclusion area. You can also use wire-mesh baskets to prevent moles from pulling plants out of the ground.