Stepping into the loose soil of a mole tunnel in the yard may be enough to wage war against the tiny burrowing mammals, but choose your weapons wisely. Despite the large number of remedies on the market, trapping is still the most effective method of mole control, and spring (and moist soil) is a good time to begin the battle.
One of the most important things to understand about trapping moles is that the traps must be placed in active runs: tunnels that are traveled through multiple times and on a regular basis. The meandering paths that crisscross the yard may have been the result of a one-time exploratory mission that the mole will never travel again. Active runs often form a sort of perimeter, or follow a naturally occurring perimeter such as a sidewalk or tree line.
To locate an active mole run in which to place a trap, press the soil down in many of the visible tunnels and mark the location. If the tunnel is regularly traveled, the soil will be raised again within the next day or two. Active runs are usually straight, and they may appear to connect mounds or meandering tunnels.
If you have a chance to watch the mole push the tunnel back up, the little guys and gals are quite impressive: an average mole can dig at about 18 feet per hour. In an existing tunnel, moles travel as fast as 80 feet per minute.
Traps are widely available, and all three of the types of traps available for moles work equally well in research trials. They are all interesting metal contraptions that come with instructions for use and if used appropriately, should not pose danger to the other neighborhood critters.
You may have more than one mole in your yard, and it may take more than a few days to catch them, so have some patience and make sure you are using the traps as instructed.
I often get asked about using grub control products to control moles, and the answer is no. According to Ohio State University, a mole’s primary food source is earthworms, not grubs. Using grub control products and all those other home remedies simply allows the mole time to better establish its home in your yard.
Some home remedies that have been proven ineffective in research include chewing gum, moth balls, human and dog hair, castor oil, red pepper, razor blades, pickle juice and broken glass. Even worse than the fact that these things rarely work, you could hurt yourself and the environment by using them.
Since moles primarily eat earthworms and insects (45-50 pounds of them in a year), they are also unlikely to consume a poison bait shaped like a grain or nut.
There is one thing more effective than a trap, but it is extremely hard to find: a good mole-sniffing dog or cat.
If you have questions about mole control or other garden woes, the Extension Master Gardener Horticulture Hotline is open 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday. Call 843-7058 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Extension Master Gardeners are also working in the Fairgrounds Demonstration Gardens, 2110 Harper St., on Tuesday afternoons. Stop by to visit with the gardeners and get firsthand tips and ideas about plants that grow well in our area.
— Jennifer Smith is the Douglas County Extension Agent – Horticulture for K-State Research and Extension.