Many homeowners have recently noticed an increase in raised ridges of soil across their lawns in somewhat erratic patterns. These ridges are caused by the shallow tunneling of moles in search of food which is mainly earthworms, beetles, grubs and other insect larvae.
The soft, moist soil from winter rains, followed by warmer temperatures, brings insects and worms closer to the surface and really gets these small critters on the move to satisfy their voracious appetites. While they rarely feed on plant material, their tunneling can cause damage to the roots of turf, bulbs, etc.
Moles are small, furry critters with beak-like noses and tiny rudimentary eyes. They have no visible ears, paddle-like front feet with large claws and stubby, hairless tails. In controlling moles just remember the reason they are there is because they are finding something to eat and if the food is not there, then they will eventually leave.
Repellants, such as caster oil, may deter them from using tunnels that it is applied into but 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 small animals may come in contact with them.
One product containing the active ingredient warfarin, an anti-coagulant and simply called mole gel bait, is packaged similarly to a caulking tube that injects the gel into the tunnel. As the mole crawls through it he gets the gel on his face and feet which he attempts to lick off and ultimately is poisoned. Another true bait type product with the active ingredient bromethalin is shaped, textured, and even smells and taste similar to earthworms. Apply by poking a small hole into the main tunnel then drop one of the earthworm shaped baits down into the tunnel. This product is marketed as Talpirid and other trade names. Information on Talpirid 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 or have concerns about pets and wildlife. However, trapping requires some skill, lots of patience and general knowledge of mole habits. A harpoon trap can be purchased from most garden centers. 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 21, 2011
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