Moles, soft soil, and spring weather (2-22-10)
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Moles are small furry critters described as having beak-like noses, tiny rudimentary eyes, and no visible ears. They have paddle-like front feet with large claws and stubby, hairless tails. The soft moist soil from winter rains followed by warmer weather of spring really gets these small critters on the move to satisfy their voracious appetites.
The ridges seen in many lawns are caused by their shallow tunneling in search of food which is mainly a diet of earthworms, beetles, grubs, and other insect larvae. While they rarely feed on plant material, their tunneling can cause damage to the roots of turf, bulbs, etc.
In controlling moles, just remember the reason they are there is because they are finding something to eat. If the food is not there then they will soon leave. Repellants such as caster oil may deter them from using tunnels that it is applied into, but it does not stop them from making new ones.
There are several effective poisonous bait products available, but caution must be taken in using these where other animals such as cats, dogs, squirrels, etc. may come in contact. One material called mole gel bait, with the active ingredient warfarin, an anti-coagulant, is packaged similar to a caulking tube. It injects the gel into the tunnel. As the mole crawls through, it gets the gel on its face and feet and is poisoned when it licks it off.
Another bait type product, with bromethalin as the active ingredient, is shaped, textured, and even smells and tastes similar to earthworms. You simply make a small hole into the tunnel and drop one of these earthworm type baits into the tunnel. It is marketed as Talpirid and other trade names. Information on this product can be found at www.talpirid.com.
Trapping is still the homeowner’s most cost-effective and safest method of removing moles if you do not want to harm your beneficial earthworms. However, trapping requires some skill, a lot of patience, and general knowledge of mole habits.
A harpoon trap can be purchased from almost any garden center. Early spring is usually the best time of year to trap since the moles are active very close to the soil surface and the soil is cool and moist. Not all tunnels are traveled regularly, so it is important to find the main daily run. This is accomplished by simply making a step on the tunnels to firm the soil back down and checking each morning to find which tunnel is used daily, then set the trap on that tunnel. If you are not successful after a couple of mornings reset the trap in another location.
Published February 22, 2010
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. firstname.lastname@example.org