For Release March 5, 2002
Dealing With Moles
by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent
One of the biggest scourges of homeowners, golf course managers and lawnaholics everywhere is the mole or rather the Eastern Mole to be correct. Moles are not rodents, they are insectivores. They feed on insects, like grubs, and other creepy crawly things that are found in the ground like worms, millipedes and centipedes. They will also eat snails, adult insects or other inverterbrates they find while tunneling through the soil.
The other underground mammal that will give us problems in lawns is the pocket gopher. Pocket gophers will leave nice piles of finely ground dirt. Moles will generally be found by their raised soil tunnels. Occasionally moles will create upheaval areas in their tunnels that will expose fresh dirt and will sort of look like a gopher mound. But these will always have an eruption look, quite different from the pile of finely ground dirt poured from a bucket look of the gopher mound.
To complicate things further, moles have two types of tunnels. The ones that are very visible are feeding tunnels that are close to the surface. These are used one time only. The second tunnel type is slightly deeper, although still detectable by walking over the lawn. These are the tunnels that are used on a regular basis.
Moles do not hibernate. They remain active wherever they can find unfrozen soil and food. In late winter and spring, they become very active as they enter the breeding season. During this time they can really tear up lawns as they try to eat close to half their body weight every day. And since moles are a native mammal of Kansas, you are bound to encounter them at anytime in yards or gardens.
Since moles are insectivores they do not directly destroy plant roots or bulbs as gophers will. They may excavate around the roots or bulbs creating air pockets that may kill a plant. Since they donít eat plant material, the use of traditional grain or peanut based poisons are ineffective. Which used to mean that we could only control them through trapping or food eradication.
Trapping requires us to spend a week stomping down tunnels and then flagging the ones that they keep reopening so that we could find the regularly used tunnels. Then a trap had to be set and monitored. To be honest, mole trapping rate success was usually under 25%. Food control involved regular control of grubs, but that still left the earthworms that are inherently good for the soil, and good mole food. You could also be doing everything right, but simply by location, you could still have moles making exploratory runs through your yard.
We now have a mole poison that is specifically formulated for moles and appears to work quite well. The product is called Mole Patrol and I have seen it at local lawn and garden supply stores. If you donít see it, ask the manager to order it!
You still have to find the tunnels that are used on a regular basis. When you locate those, get a one half inch wooden dowel or metal rod and poke a hole through the soil into the tunnel. Then pour 10 to 20 pellets through the hole, being careful not to touch the bait pellets with your hands. Do this in several locations in active tunnels. The active ingredient is a blood thinner so you may have to make weekly treatments for a month or so to make sure you get enough toxin in the mole to kill it.
Moles are a nuisance that no one wants. And while dealing with them isnít easy, we at least have one more weapon in the arsenal than we used to!
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