You walk out one morning onto your carefully maintained lawn and garden, only to find a series of unsightly mounds of dirt and broken earth. When you step on the mounds, they give way. As you look more closely, it appears the mounds connect with an underground tunnel system.
Does this scenario sound familiar? If it does, your yard has had a visitor – a mole. Before we look at what you can do to get this burrowing pest out of your yard, let’s learn a little bit about this unusual animal.
Known for its short powerful paws and long claws that are excellent for digging, the mole is a burrowing mammal that has small eyes and ears, gray or black velvety fur, a thin hairless snout and is about six to eight inches in length.
Moles are insectivores, meaning they feed on insects and insect larvae. Although they live underground all year round, they are particularly active during the warm, wet months of spring and autumn, when the ground is soft, and earthworms and white grubs are readily available.
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Industrious creatures, moles can dig at a rate of 18 feet per hour, making surface tunnels and deep tunnels anywhere from two inches to five feet underground. This surprising rate for such a small creature explains why those mounds appear to spring up out of nowhere.
Moles tend to be solitary creatures except during breeding season, so the tunnels in your yard are likely the work of only one mole. The mounds you see in your yard are connected to main runways, which are a foot or more underground and are usually not visible. A hungry mole builds new underground tunnels that connect with these main runways every day.
If the mole builds enough tunnels in your yard, it can go from simply unsightly to unsafe, with holes throughout the yard.
Using chemicals to repel or kill moles is not a good idea, since the chemicals can be harmful to your garden as well as to any beneficial insects. So what are natural ways to keep moles out of your lawn and garden? Here are some ideas.
1. Repellants. Moles have limited eyesight, but they have an advanced sense of smell. They react strongly to the odor of castor oil, so you may be able to restrict their activity with the use of a castor oil spray.
Combine two tablespoons of dish soap with one cup of castor oil and one gallon of water in a sprayer. Apply this solution into any tunnels in your yard once a month and after rainfall or watering.
2. Barriers. Another option is to bury a 24-inch hardware cloth or metal barrier at least one foot below the surface of your yard, bending the bottom of the barrier out at a 90-degree angle.
To find out where to place the barrier, flatten pushed up soil with the flat side of a shovel and then check the area the next day. If it is loose and/or mounded again, you have found an active tunnel.
3. Drainage. Since moles like moist soil, you can make sure your lawn and garden has proper drainage after a rainfall or watering.
4. Plants. Another way to deter moles from your property is by planting certain plants that moles dislike. Natural mole repellents include marigolds, chocolate lilies, daffodils, alliums, mole plants, fritillaries and castor beans. Garlic is another good choice.
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5. Technology. Some homeowners have found success by placing battery-powered ultrasonic devices in the ground to create noises and vibrations that bother moles.
6. Trapping. Many experts consider trapping to be the most effective way to remove moles from your property. Trapping and then relocating the mole can be an option if you dislike the idea of killing it.
First, locate the active tunnels by flattening mounds and then observing if it is raised again the next day. Then, place a live trap with earthworms as bait in the entrance to the hole and cover with any solid covering. Here are two video links on trapping moles without killing them:
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6. Wait it out. A final option is to take a passive approach. Moles have a short life span of less than three years, so Mother Nature may take care of the problem that way. In addition, a change in weather or a change in ground moisture can cause your troublesome visitor to go elsewhere.
Finally, even though those mounds of dirt can be maddening, it is important to realize that moles can be beneficial to your property. The quick digging that moles perform efficiently aerates your yard, allowing nutrients to circulate in the soil. Additionally, moles consume grubs and other insects that can destroy the roots of your plants and shrubs.
How do you get rid of moles? Share your ideas in the section below:
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