Moles in the Garden
The Eastern Mole (Scalopus aquaticus). Found from Ontario to Florida, the eastern mole is the most widespread species of moles in the US, and is the most likely cause of tunneling in lawns and landscape.
Mature moles grow to be 6-7 inches long and typically weigh 3-4 ounces. They have velvet-like gray or brown fur, small eyes, no visible ears, and a short, nearly-hairless tail. Their paddle-like forelimbs, with webbed toes on outward-turned palms, are specifically designed for swimming through soil.
Moles are solitary creatures. 6 weeks after spring mating, females will produce a litter of 2 to 5 hairless young in an underground nest. After a month, they leave the nest to fend for themselves. They become sexually mature in one year and can live from 3-5 years.
Moles are not rodents. They are voracious insectivores who, in one day, can consume their weight in insect grubs, adult insects, and earthworms. Moles construct two types of tunnels. Permanent ones, 10-18 inches below the surface, which link underground nests; and temporary feeding tunnels, which are located at a more shallow depth. Temporary tunnels can be dug at a foot per minute.
Surface tunnels are marked by raised ridges of turf or soil. Volcano-shaped mounds or mole hills might also be present. These contain the soil excavated from the deeper tunnels. Although this tunneling aerates the soil and improves water penetration, it can disrupt plants, and the mole hills can be colonized by weeds.
Trapping in the spring or fall is the best way to eliminate problem animals. Effective traps are harpoon, scissor-jaw, or choker-loop types. These should be set in active surface burrows. To be sure a tunnel is active, flatten it and see if it is restored. Move your traps if they have not been successful after 2 or 3 days.
Moles can also be prevented from tunneling into individual garden beds by surrounding them with a barrier of quarter-inch hardware cloth buried at a depth of 2 feet and extending 6 inches above the ground. Castor oil products, such as Mole Max, have also been shown to work effectively to reduce mole activity if thoroughly watered in. Irrigate with half an inch of water before application, and one inch afterward. There are also mole poisons such as Bonide Mole-Tox, which can be effective.
A host of other home remedies, including pinwheels, chewing gum, mothballs, bleach, used cat litter, old garlic, and pieces of thorny branches may also help you to lessen the amount of moles infiltrating your garden.
Another great way to keep the moles out is to get rid of their food. Using a season long grub control applied each year will eliminate the grubs for that year. Another option is Milky Spore, which is a grub control applied in either a powder or granular version which treats grubs for up to 20 years, though it takes a few to establish into the ground.
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