Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill

By Ralph E. Mitchell

A real mole hill
A real mole hill – just soil pushed up from below by the mole.

I often like to write about what is going on in my own yard. I’ve recently noticed numerous pushed up mounds of soil in my turf and have identified the culprit as the eastern mole. This soil is pushed up from subterranean tunnels and chambers about twelves inches below the ground. I have also spotted some meandering surface tunnels where the moles pursue their food sources. I like the title of this article, the old adage “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill” as it introduces the concept that perhaps the damage caused by moles is exaggerated and does not always rise to the need for major action or concern.

These non-rodent, insect-eating mammals are not often seen due to their underground tunneling habit. If one did manage to appear above ground, it would be up to six inches long with a short one and one half-inch tail. The fur, slate gray in color, is velvet-like and soft with a slight sheen. Eastern moles also have large front feet adapted for digging. While the mole tunnels may become a nuisance, they are really no more than an eyesore. Moles don’t eat grassroots or other plants. In fact, a mole’s favorite food are earthworms. In addition, moles actually feed on insects and other invertebrates that can damage your lawn or landscape such as mole crickets, white grubs, wire worms, cutworms, slugs, etc. Any perceived damage caused by the tunneling is usually minor in nature and is actually beneficial providing aeration and pest control.

I can co-exist with moles, and I think that you can as well. However, if you need to deal with them, here are some things NOT to try: vibrating devices, mothballs, and chewing gum. These methods have not been proven in scientific trials! A mole repellent that contains castor oil is available, however. Soil type and amount of rainfall will dictate the length of this product’s effectiveness. Always read and follow the label instructions. The application of insecticides to suppress the mole’s food source tends to be impractical and inefficient as insect larvae such as white grubs may not be numerous enough to warrant a treatment. Plus, we are not targeting earthworms, the “filet mignon” of mole food.

If you still feel that you need to take action, perhaps the most effective method of control is a commercial mole trap available through hardware stores, garden centers, and gardening catalogs. Two types are commonly available and instructions for proper setting come with the trap. Exercise extra caution by placing a plastic bucket over the trap so that children and pets do not investigate. When using either trap, make sure to set it in an active tunnel. To determine an active tunnel, press down on an existing exposed tunnel – an active tunnel will pop back up to normal size within twenty-four hours. Use gloves when disposing of dead moles.

A final note would be to make sure you are not overwatering your lawn and landscape. Overly wet soil may be more apt to harbor mole food sources and in turn attract moles. Again, moles are really beneficial animals that seek out and destroy many insect pests harmful to lawns. If I have not convinced you of this, there are methods to reduce numbers of moles to manageable levels that can be tolerated. For more information on all types of wildlife damage control issues, or to ask a question, please visit https://www.facebook.com/CharlotteMGLifeline/. Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or ralph.mitchell@charlottecountyfl.gov.

Resources:
Kern, W. H. (2017) Moles, The University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS.
Moles in Lawns (2021) UF/IFAS Extension Service.
UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions (2017) Moles. University of Florida Extension Service.

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Posted: March 5, 2021


Category: Home Landscapes, Pests & Disease
Tags: Mole Hill, Non-rodent


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