Making mountains out of mole hills

I now understand why moles have become the mortal enemies of groundskeepers and gardeners. In a few short weeks, they can turn a lawn into a vast wasteland and leave rumble in their wake.

Mole (wdfw.wa.gov)

Yes, the fun game of whacking moles was no coincidence. Whoever thought of the idea knew what they were talking about.

I always thought moles were these cute-but-ugly things that kept to themselves way underground and never came to the Earth’s surface except for an occasion search for water, and I would never have to deal with them. I have moles, lots of them, and I’m not sure how to get rid of them.

My lawn (if you want to call it that) is covered with good-size mole hills. These little critters have reconstructed my backyard into their own networking system. Mounds of dirt have sprung up all over, causing my grandchildren and I to invent a new game; stomping mole hills.

I have spent the entire summer trying to make my yard look pretty, planting flowers, weeding, watering the lawn and plants when they need it, even raising morning glories from seeds.

Last month the woman who owns the house behind us warned me that she was having a professional come in to get rid of the moles and we’d better do the same. Now I wish I would have listened. A whole family of moles moved in and have made themselves comfortable in our backyard. So how do I get rid of them?

A few people have given me tips on how to get rid of them, but many of them involved poison. Instead of taking their advice, I decided to whip out my trusty laptop and google it for myself.

The first thing I found out was that I needed to identify which invader it actually was; moles, vole, or gophers. I came upon a map at http://www.volecontrol.com/pic_regional_pests.html that showed that moles were native to Iowa. I clicked on a link on the site’s sidebar that took me to another page that showed what kind of hill it was making, confirming that it was, indeed, moles.

I returned to my googling and found a site (http://www.mahalo.com/how-to-get-rid-of-moles)  with a lot of useful information. For instance:

  • Moles are more of a nuisance than anything else. Moles are not dangerous.
  • Moles do not eat roots, flower bulbs, or other vegetation.
  • Moles feed on pest insects which is highly beneficial to your yard and garden.
  • The digging that moles do can be beneficial to the soil, even if it creates immediate inconveniences such as yellowed grass and mole hills.

They are a pain in the butt for many people because:

  • The ridges of their shallow tunnels and the mole hills they create are unsightly and make mowing the lawn difficult.
  • The moles’ tunneling activity as they search for food may turn the grass brown and disturb other plants.
  • The tunnels they dig can cause the ground to sink when you walk on it.
  • Moles are extremely fast and strong: One or two active moles can quickly destroy a nicely landscaped yard, causing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars worth of damage.

And here are a few suggestions the site gave me to try:

  • Over-watering your lawn will bring earthworms and the moles who eat them closer to the surface. Try reducing the amount of water you give your lawn.
  • Consider changing your lawn completely.  Converting your yard to gardens or a low-water landscape will save you money, provide a habitat for birds, and discourage moles from choosing to settle there.
  • Block the moles out of your yard or garden. Building a barrier might not be the best way to keep moles out of large area, but it can work for small gardens. Use fencing with a small mesh, and bury it at least two feet below the ground’s surface.

Other options they suggested:

  • There are several types of chemicals used to reduce moles, but some of them are illegal to use and others are ineffective.
  • Human hair, Castor Oil, moth balls, commercial mole repellents and other smelly items will initially scare off moles, but moles adapt quickly, and they will most likely return in short order.
  • Soil vibrating and ultra-sonic devices have the same initial effect as the less-expensive smelly repellents, with the same result: The moles will come back for all that yummy food that is found in the soil under your yard!
  • Some dogs can smell moles and may try to dig them up, but moles are fast: They can travel about 80 feet per minute through existing tunnels.  Besides this fact, the mess the dog will make trying to dig up the mole will rival that of the mole itself!
  • A common recommendation when attempting to eliminate moles from your yard is to kill off their food supply. Controlling beetle grubs is something you can try, but chances are there is enough other food in your yard, such as earthworms, to keep the moles well-fed.
  • Another common thing to try is using a hose to flood the moles out of their tunnels. This also does not work well, however, as most moles have an extensive network of tunnels, and the water may not reach all of them. Even if you do manage to flush out the moles, they will only return later, unless you manage to trap and relocate them.

The authors of the site said that some people trap and kill the moles themselves, but they suggested trying the other ways first because killing moles is illegal in some states.

So, as I see it, I have many different options that might assist me in getting rid of the pests, but time will tell. At least next year I will be more aware of them and I can start a little earlier in getting rid of them. Either that, or just throw in the towel and surrender to the hilly landscape that is now my backyard.

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4 thoughts on “Making mountains out of mole hills

  1. Mostly, I try to ignore moles–just tamp down the mounds they make before you mow. Since they burrow through the yard, but don’t really remove the dirt, the ridges should compact back to grade. Then, set your mower a bit higher–long grass is healthier, anyway. Killing beetle grubs is a common strategy but also a silly one–since, as you note, moles are more likely feasting on earthworms. Anyway, the non-poisonous caster-oil based “repel moles” sprays that you can attach to a garden hose and spray on your yard won’t hurt anything and will encourage moles to move on–it’s just that the spray is not long-lasting and the moles may be back. Still, when I want to evict them, I’ve found trying to kill them or their food is not worth the effort, and the spray to repel them does work.

  2. Trapping the moles.either yourself or hiring a professional to remove the most effective way to remove them. Some of the gimmicks and gadgets will chase them off for a week or so, but trapping removes them completely.

    They can’t come back if they are DEAD.

    Last August Early Sept you see more surface disturbances as moles go after food in the hydrated layer of soil on nicely kept lawns etc.

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