Spring has arrived and the moles are back (3-9-09)
The warmer weather of spring really gets 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 are 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.
In controlling moles just remember the reason they are there is because they are finding something to eat. And if the food is not there, they will soon leave. Repellants such as caster oil may deter them from using existing tunnels, but does not stop them from making new ones. 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 are several effective poisonous bait products available, but caution must be taken in using these where other animals such as cats, dogs, squirrels, etc. may come in contact with them. One material called mole gel bait, with the active ingredient warfarin (an anti-coagulant) is packaged similar to a caulking tube that injects the gel into the tunnel. As the mole crawls through it he gets the gel on his face and feet which he attempts to lick off and ultimately is poisoned. Another bait type product with bromethalin as the active ingredient is shaped, textured, and even smells and taste 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 other trade names. Information on this product can be found at www.talpirid.com.
Published March 9, 2009
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