Are moles tunneling through your lawn? (03-13-2006)
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Has your lawn been intruded by some mysterious creature causing irregular, snake-like raised ridges of soil throughout the lawn and into the flowerbeds? Most likely a common Eastern mole has inhabited your lawn.
I attended the annual Lawn and Patio Show in Jackson recently and this was a question of concern to several homeowners who stopped by the extension information booth. Apparently, the recent warm weather and the softened soil have really gotten these small critters on the move to satisfy their voracious appetites.
Moles are small, furry critters described as having beak-like noses, tiny rudimentary eyes, no visible ears, and paddle-like front feet with large claws and with stubby, hairless tails.
The ridges in the lawn is caused by their shallow tunneling in search of food which is mainly a diet of earthworms, beetles, grubs, and other insect larvae. While they rarely feed on plant material their tunneling can cause damage to the roots of turf, bulbs, etc.
When controlling moles, just remember the reason they are there is because they are finding something to eat and if the food is not there then they will soon leave.
Trapping is still the homeowners most cost-effective and safest method of removing moles if you do not want to harm your beneficial earthworms. However, trapping requires some skill, a lot of patience, and general knowledge of mole habits.
A harpoon trap can be purchased from most any garden center. Early spring is usually the best time of year to trap since the moles are active very close to the soil surface and the soil is cool and moist. Not all tunnels are traveled regularly, so it is important to find the main daily run. This is accomplished by simply making a step on the tunnels to firm the soil back down and checking each morning to find which one is used daily, then set the trap on that tunnel. If you are not successful after a couple of mornings reset the trap in another location.
There is a product called “mole gel bait” with the active ingredient being warfarin. It is packaged similar to a caulking tube and you can inject the gel into the tunnel. As the mole crawls through it he gets the gel on his face and feet. He will then attempt to lick it off and ultimately be poisoned. Caution must be taken though, since warfarin is an anti-coagulant (the same as in rat poison). Other animals such as cats and dogs may also dig it up.
Another bait type product that has appeal is one that is shaped, textured, and even smells and tastes similar to earthworms. You simply make a small hole into the tunnel and drop one of these earthworm type baits into the tunnel. It is marketed as Talpirid and contains bromethalin as the active ingredient. Information on this product can be found at www.talpirid.com.
Published March 13, 2006
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. firstname.lastname@example.org