Now that the days are getting warmer and soil temperatures are on the rise, we are starting to see more activity from a dreaded gardening companion.
Moles are rarely welcome in the home landscape. Their tunneling activity and destructive nature make them a foe in any part of the lawn and garden. (However, this subterranean insectivore can be a blessing in disguise if you suffer from heavy clay soil because their tunneling helps to loosen and aerate.)
Moles are one of the most destructive yet misunderstood pests in the urban landscape. Often digging with no regards to what they damage, they can appear overnight and cause great harm.
Moles are insectivores, meaning they primarily feed on insects such as grubs, earthworms and beetles. Rarely do they feed on herbaceous plant parts.
Other mammals such as meadow mice and house mice live in and move through mole runways, helping themselves to grains, seeds and tubers. The mole, however, often gets blamed for plant damage.
Moles create two types of tunnels one for living and another for feeding. The home burrow is usually a single tunnel that goes straight down several feet and ends with a J-shaped hook. There the mole will sleep and retreat when disturbed. The other type of tunnel is a series of feeding runways that randomly appear just below the soil surface.
Moles are solitary and will usually defend their runs from invaders such as other moles. A single mole can tunnel up to 500 feet per day in search of a meal. So what appears to be a whole family of moles is usually just one hard at work.
The best method of control is trapping. Poison peanuts and pellets are of little value, because they are not part of a mole's diet. Castor oil chases them away, but only temporarily. They will return in a few days or weeks.
Trapping works because it removes the mole immediately. The trick is to keep the trap moving. Find the feeding tunnel the mole uses the most by tamping down all the runs and looking for the one that is repaired first. Then set the trap according to its directions. If the mole isn't caught by the next day, move the trap to a new location.
Eventually, you will catch them problem solved.
Bruce Chladny is horticulture agent at K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. For more information, call him at 843-7058 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.