This is a reprint article from a couple years ago but certainly worthy of bringing forth again as controlling moles was one of the most frequent questions I was asked at the Garden and Patio Show held in Jackson this past weekend.
Many homeowners have recently noticed an increase in raised ridges of soil across their lawns in somewhat erratic patterns. These ridges are caused by moles shallow tunneling in search of food which is mainly a diet of earthworms, beetles, grubs, and other insect larvae. The soft moist soil from winter rains followed by warmer weather of spring that brings insects and worms closer to the surface 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 described having beak-like noses, tiny rudimentary eyes, no visible ears, and paddle-like front feet with large claws and with 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 animals such as cats, dogs, squirrels, etc. may come in contact with them. One product containing the active ingredient warfarin, an anti-coagulant and simply called “mole gel bait” is packaged similar to a caulking tube that injects the gel into the tunnel and 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, a lot of patience, and general knowledge of mole habits. A harpoon trap can be purchased from most 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 March 18, 2013
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. email@example.com