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Illinois Country Living

David Robson Extension Educator, Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois

Yard & Garden

Wack a Mole
Hitting some of the facts about moles

Let’s hit some of the fun mole facts that can make you the hit of any cocktail party circuit or church potluck social.

1. A group of moles is called a “labor.” You may have other words, but remember this is a family magazine.

2. Moles are carnivores. They eat only earthworms, grubs and any other creatures that happen to be crawling around.

They don’t intentionally eat roots, seeds or bulbs. If the root, seed or bulb happens to be close to the worm or insect, it might get eaten, but it’s not on purpose. It’s important to remember they won’t eat plant materials.

Now, plant material can end up dying. As the moles form their feeding tunnels, they’ll expose the roots to air, cause bulbs to turn on their sides or upside down, and drop seeds into the tunnel where they may germinate, but not grow. For lawns, the damage is the exposed roots to the air and wilting due to lack of moisture.

3. Moles tend to be solitary, except for that time in the spring when male moles get together with female moles. Then they part ways. While it seems you may have lots of moles in your yard, you probably don’t.

4. Moles are blind. They sense their food by hearing them moving in the soil. They also have an acute sense of smell.

5. The average mole eats about 80 to 100 percent of its weight a day.

Essentially, it feeds for about 2 to 3 hours, rests an hour, and then starts the loop over. Eating and sleeping. That’s about it.

Just imagine trying to eat your weight a day. That’s lots of food. More importantly, that’s why there are lots of tunnels, and why moles tend to be solitary. You have to constantly dig for the worm or grub, and you don’t want competition from someone else.

6. If you find a big mound of soil in your yard without a hole in it, chances are you have a female nesting about 2 to 3 feet down somewhere close. The female pushes the soil out of the tunnels to create the nest. Once the little ones are able to fend for themselves, they’re kicked out.

7. Moles love wooded areas. That’s where the most insects are. Chances are, if you live out in the middle of an old corn field, you won’t have mole problems. Sometimes you might, but usually not. The more trees and shrubs you plant, the more likely you’ll have problems in a few years.

Now, on to the control.

Poison peanuts will NOT work. They won’t. Won’t. Won’t. They are plant material and moles only eat insects and worms. The only thing that happens when you buy the poison peanuts, or pellets as some stores advertise, is an increase in the bottom line of the manufacturer.

Gas cartridges also don’t work well due to the extensive tunnel system. Flooding the tunnels with water usually only results in a wet and annoyed mole.

Castor bean plants and castor bean derivatives have been shown to have some mild repellent properties. But, they only work in a short space, and as far as the repellents are concerned, only as long as they aren’t diluted.

Pepsi bottles buried to their necks won’t create a noise that scares the moles away. Neither will plastic sunflowers that spin in the wind.

A terrier or border collie works well though there is the inherent care of the pet.

Then there are the traps, which are probably the only thing that truly does work. There are three or four different types, and all basically stab or choke the mole. They need to be placed in the main tunnel runs.

I won’t get into the issue of killing moles or not; that’s something you take up yourself.

However, I will point out that nature abhors a vacuum. Kill the mole in your yard, and chances are another will show up until all the food is gone.



More Information:

David Robson is an Extension Educator, Horticulture, at the Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois Extension, P.O. Box 8199, Springfield, IL 62791. Telephone: 217-782-6515.


© 2008 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
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