With spring-time here and warm weather upon us, you might be starting to notice common spring-time pest infestations in your lawns and gardens. One of the most prevalent spring-time pests are moles, known for the unsightly, ridge-like tunnels and mounds of soil they leave behind.
The New England Area has two kinds of moles, the Star-nosed, which frequent damp soils, and the Hairy-tailed, which frequent well-drained, upland soils. Both kinds of moles live underground in tunnels that range anywhere from 2-20 inches underground. Moles are active throughout the year but become most active during breeding season (March & April). During this time, moles dig many more shallow tunnels searching for mates.
Moles have very few predators. Dogs, skunks, cats, coyotes, and the occasional hawk or owl are their only real threats, and very small ones at that. For the most part, moles go unnoticed by people and predators until spring comes around. Not only does breeding season bring them to the surface, but the moist spring-time soil filled with earthworms does as well (earthworms constitute 85% of a mole’s diet).
Moles are elusive and just plain hard to get rid of. Because of their extensive networks, efforts to control these pests are typically short lived. The most common efforts include: baiting and trapping, repellents, fumigation, insecticides, and other non-chemical measures. Most professionals consider baiting and trapping to be the most effective method for mole control. This is due to the fact that moles feed and rest on two-hour intervals, which makes the turnaround for baiting and trapping very quick.
Professionals may also recommend repellents; however, this method requires frequent application and strictly followed application rates, frequency, and techniques. Applications can last up to 30 days but, in times of excessive rain, repeated applications are required. If you choose to use a repellent, it is best that you consult a landscape professional.
The other control methods are generally considered ineffective. Generally, fumigants do not work because of the moles’ many escape holes. The space being fumigated is just not well enough contained. Insecticides are ineffective because they only target about 20% of moles’ food source. If you attempt to kill the other 80% (being earthworms) you will be attempting to kill an essential component of healthy soil’s ecosystem. Some suggest that killing off the grubs that moles eat will actually encourage more tunneling as the moles search for other food sources. There is also little research to support the effectiveness of alternative nonchemical methods like electronic, magnetic and vibrational devices.
Because moles are a problem you will most likely have to deal with on an annual basis, baiting and trapping is considered the best method for mole control. The key to success when baiting and trapping is to choose a good trap and to place it in an active runway. The following are some tips from Sport Turf Managers Association that will help you effectively utilize this method of mole control.
- Use of a broom handle or similar stick to poke holes through the top of feeding tunnels at random throughout the tunnel network.
- Re-visit those holes in two to three hours and inspect. A hole re-plugged with soil indicates a mole passed through that feeding tunnel making it an active tunnel for that day. Not all feeding tunnels are used daily.
- Set traps on or insert baits into active feeding tunnels. Use rubber gloves to set raps or insert baits to reduce human scent. If traps have not been triggered in a day or two, repeat steps 1-3.
- Continue to trap and bait until activity ceases. Controlling a few moles in an area equal to an average size lawn (5000 square feet) will greatly reduce mole activity.
If moles are your problem, these steps should help you significantly reduce the amount of tunnels and mounds found in your lawn. Just be aware that no matter what method of pest control you choose to use, there will most likely be more pesky little moles next year.
Happy trapping and good luck!