Moles

How to Identify and Get Rid of Moles

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Here are tips on how to identify and get rid of moles in the garden or yard.

What Are Moles?

Moles are ground–dwelling carnivores that prefer to eat insects instead of your garden plants. However, their underground tunnels can ruin your garden and lawn and make an easy access to your plants for other rodents.

If you have a significant invasion of moles or similar pests, it may be a sign of trouble. Moles are usually found where soil is rich in organic matter. Their presence in unusually large numbers might be due to a high population of soil pests. It therefore serves as a warning that all is not well with the soil life.

Identification

How to Identify Moles in your Garden

Moles are surprising little mammals with pointed muzzles, tiny eyes, and bodies shaped like Idaho potatoes. In motion they actually swim along underground, using wide front flippers to part the soil as they go. They prefer moist, loamy soil and are most active in the early morning or evening in the spring or fall; they also come out after a warm rain.

Moles have the distinguishing characteristic of a hairless, pointed snout. Their small eyes and ear canals are concealed by fur, and they do not have external ears. They have very large and broad forefeet with webbed toes. Their hind feet or more narrow and have slender claws. They are usually about 7 inches in length and weigh about 4 ounces.

Mole Damage

  • Moles usually feed on insect pests, grubs, and soil organisms, including beneficial ones like earthworms.
  • Unlike vegetarian voles, moles dig deep. Their tunnels are usually at least ten inches underground, unless they’re scanning the surface in search of a mate. Check your soil and lawn for their tunnels. They will look like raised volcano-shaped swellings in your yard.
  • Surface tunnels or ridges also indicate mole activity.

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Control and Prevention

How to Deter Moles

  • If you have a persistent mole problem, the best solution is trapping. Frankly, this is often the only way to get rid of moles. Use a humane trap, and release the moles at least 5 miles from your home in a rural area away from someone else’s garden. See more details below.
  • Placing ultrasonic devices or noisemakers such as spinning daisies near the runs are often effective.
  • Owning a cat that enjoys walking through your flower beds is a very effective deterrent to rodents.
  • Moles are carnivores that make themselves at home in lawns rich in grubs and insects. When their food is seasoned with castor oil, they will go elsewhere for meals. (Wouldn’t you?) Mix up a spray of 3 parts castor oil to 1 part dish detergent; use 4 tablespoons of this concoction in a gallon of water, and soak the tunnels and the entrances.
  • Dip an ear of corn in roofing tar and place it in one of their tunnels. Moles hate the smell of tar, and you’ll block their escape.
  • Some readers say it works to sprinkle dried blood, tobacco, powdered red pepper, or coffee grounds near tunnel entrances. Remember to re-apply after a rain.
  • However, many folk remedies do not control moles, such as placing gum, human air, bleach, ammonia or mothballs near the tunnels. And remember that moles will not eat peanuts or grain; they are insectivores.
  • You may have luck using wind power—setting up vibrations in the ground that will bother moles and send them away. Low-tech methods include kids’ pinwheels placed here and there on the lawn, or a homemade thumper: Cut fins in the sides of a bleach bottle and place it on a stick driven into the ground near a mole entrance.
  • Finally, there are mole repellents as well as baits though we do not personally use. Bromethalin is sold in the form of a worm-shaped bait; place baits in an active mole run. Correct placement is critical; read and follow all directions provided with the product.

Trapping Moles

No permit is required for trapping. Place traps so that they will be triggered as moles travel in the runs. 

Before placing a trap, make sure the run is active by pressing down with your foot; if the soil is pushed up the next day, the run is still active. 

Straight runs, especially those near the edges of a driveway or sidewalk, are preferred. It the trap does not catch a run in two days, move the trap to a different run.

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Prevent Moles

  • Check out your soil for the presence of pests; if you have a lot of moles, you may have an oversupply of grubs and bugs. You can try getting rid of the grubs with beneficial nematodes, however, it doesn’t necessary mean the moles will go away; grubs are only part of their diet. 
  • If you want to protect specific plants, dig a 2- to 3-foot hole and line the sides and bottom of the hole with wire mesh. Fill the hole with soil and plant.
  • Where you are determined to try bulbs, make a small “cage” of ½-inch mesh screen. Place several bulbs inside, root plate down and bury the entire cage at the proper depth. Rodents won’t be able to chew through, but roots and stems can grow out. Note: moles are often blamed for the damaged caused by field mice.

Learn more about moles and what they do in your yard. Do you have comments or questions about moles? Let us know below!

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Reader Comments

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I am finding my Mexican

I am finding my Mexican Feathergrass laying over and I can pick it up by the handful, no root system. I am also having problems with my autumn sage. Will moles eat the roots of these plants? I just had my flower bed landscaped this past March.

Mexican Feather Grass does

The Editors's picture

Mexican Feather Grass does lie down. If you don't like this affect, you can give it a haircut with a few inches of the top to prevent flopping. It probably looks best if cut once or twice during the season. Also, be sure to pull out dead foliage new foliage emerges. However, if everything is pulling out easily, then the plant didn't root well. Provide a well-drained soil (not too compact) and water regularly during the first growing season to establish a deep, extensive root system. Reduce watering after establishment. In terms of the sage, we haven't heard of mole problems. Moles tend to eat grubs in lawns. Voles, however, love spring perennials. If you are concerned, we'd suggest raised garden beds or dig a trench around the area that you want protected.

My problem that I haven't

My problem that I haven't figured out yet is this:
I planted my garden 6 weeks ago. I put out corn, purple hull peas, bush beans, potatoes, tomatoes, sunflowers, squash, cucumbers, and beet. Approximately 1/3 of everything is coming up. I see these little trails of semi-broken ground that appear to follow my rows and then skip to the next. I thought moles at first but the tunnels seem too narrow being about 1/2" I have dug at the ends or beginnings of these trails and turn up nothing. I even replanted in the vacant areas only to have the same problem. Does anyone have any suggestions.

How about adding VOLES to the

How about adding VOLES to the list of garden Pests. I have one that has eaten everyone of my marigolds and chwews off one whole patch of Bee Balm. Now the beast is eating my tomatoes to get all of the seeds. Yes it is a vole because I have seen him or them scurrying in an around my planting beds. I have put out three live catch traps and all have remained empty. I put out glue boards up next to the foundation of the house and he kicked dirt all over them. I put out poison and it hasn't been touched in two weeks. These thinks are the bane of my summer gardening.

If you can have an outside

If you can have an outside cat, your vole problem will probably disappear.

Glue boards

Several years ago, i had a problem with something eating strawberries in my garden. I put out glue boards (2) to catch whatever it was, and caught 2 cardinals, both of which were killed by the glue boards. Not a pretty site....and i was devastated. I will never use glue boards again....and am always sure to plant enough for everyone/everything.....

The beneficial nematodes work

The beneficial nematodes work the best: plus there aren't any fleas, or ant piles in the yard. Just make sure you put enough out to cover the yard.

We had moles all over our

We had moles all over our lawn (2 acres) in FL. We were told to put 1/2 stick of juicy fruit gum in soil at the new end of the tunnel. So we went to Sams Club, bought alot of gum, "planted" it in the front of their tunnel. They were gone in no time. Note: don't touch the gum with your hands.

What kind or brand (juicy

What kind or brand (juicy fruit gum) did you buy?

my wife planted caster bean

my wife planted caster bean plants last summer about a couple of weeks after they came up the moles left our yard

That's good to know. Will

That's good to know. Will definitely give it a try. Thanks

Castor beans will kill

My dog ate the pretty little pink stickers blooms that the wind blew off the plant, he had huge welps all over his body. Vet said it could have killed him but he was a huge Bull Mastiff and just made him a little sick and very uncomfortable! But if you have no dogs Castor beans are beautiful plants to grow. The grow to about 8 feet tall and huge leaves.

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