To get rid of moles in your lawn, begin by understanding their behavior: identify active pathways and signs of activity and address factors attracting them. Use effective mole traps like harpoon or scissor traps, placing them in key tunnels. Alternatively, consider baiting with potent earthworm-style baits or employ preventative methods such as eliminating their food source, reducing watering, mowing regularly, and planting deterrent plants.
The Underground World of Moles
Picture this: a serene morning in your backyard, coffee in hand, until you stumble upon a horrifying sight — molehills scattered across the lawn. Moles, those elusive subterranean creatures, have decided to make your yard their new home.
As charming as they may be in animated films, the reality of dealing with mole damage is far from enchanting. Homeowners worldwide find themselves frustrated by the havoc moles wreak on meticulously maintained lawns and gardens.
Before we dive into effective mole control strategies, let's acquaint ourselves with these mysterious creatures. Moles, with their velveteen fur and distinctive snouts, are expert tunnelers, spending most of their lives underground. Their primary diet consists of insects, grubs, and earthworms, which they locate using an intricate network of tunnels. Unfortunately, these tunnels can extend over 100 feet, leaving a trail of destruction in your yard.
Characteristics of Moles
To tackle any problem, understanding your enemy is vital. Moles, with their cylindrical bodies and specialized limbs for digging, are designed for a life spent below the surface. Their velvety fur isn’t just for show, it allows them to move backward and forward effortlessly in the narrow confines of their tunnels. Despite their small eyes, moles have keen senses of smell and hearing, enabling them to navigate the darkness beneath the soil.
Behavior and Habits
Moles are not malicious creatures; they are simply following their instincts. They create tunnels to search for food, mate, and establish territories. Understanding their behavior can help us develop effective strategies for mole control. For instance, moles are more active during spring and fall.
In spring, they will be looking to mate, but otherwise, they tend to live alone. So those tunnels you see are more than likely to have been made by a lone mole, rather than a group. In the fall, their presence will be down to them looking for food, which they will take deep underground to store for the winter. Moles are active all year round, but they mostly stay in their burrows during the winter months.
Moles are at their busiest early in the morning and late in the evening. You’ll also see them after a soaking rain shower when the insects they eat are most active.
Common Signs of Mole Activity in Yards
Identifying mole activity is crucial for implementing timely control measures. Signs of moles include raised ridges or tunnels on the surface, molehills (mounds of soil), and damage to plant roots. Recognizing these indicators early on allows for proactive intervention, minimizing the impact on your yard.
Damage Caused by Moles
Moles may be small, but their impact on your yard can be significant. As they burrow through the soil in search of food, they disturb the root systems of plants, leading to wilting and, in some cases, plant death. The resulting tunnels also create an unsightly and uneven landscape, diminishing the aesthetic appeal of your yard.
Effects on Plant Roots and Landscaping
Healthy plant roots are essential for the vitality of your lawn and garden. Moles, however, disrupt this delicate balance by uprooting plants and exposing their roots to the elements. This interference can weaken vegetation, making it more susceptible to diseases and other stressors.
Neglecting Mole Infestations = Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill
Ignoring mole activity may seem tempting, especially if the damage appears minimal at first. However, the risks associated with neglecting mole infestations can escalate quickly. Over time, mole tunnels may compromise the stability of the soil, leading to sinkholes or collapses. Additionally, moles can attract other pests, creating a domino effect of lawn-related issues. Moles can live for up to three years, so it is best to move them on before they get too settled.
What Attracts Moles to Your Yard?
Moles are primarily attracted to environments that offer favorable conditions for their main food sources, such as insects, grubs, and earthworms. Here are some factors that might attract moles to your yard:
- An abundance of insects: Moles feed on insects and larvae, so if your yard has a high population of insects or grubs, it can attract moles. With moles eating 70-100% of their body weight in worms, grubs, and insects each day, they need to find somewhere with a huge supply.
- Moist soil: Moles prefer moist soil because it makes tunneling easier and helps them locate their prey. Overwatering your lawn or having poor drainage can create a mole-friendly environment.
- Cool temperatures: Moles are most likely to be setting up home in your lawn in the spring and fall when the temperatures are cooler and their favorite insects are in abundance.
- Healthy lawns: You might take it as a compliment that moles are attracted to well-maintained lawns with healthy grass and abundant soil-dwelling insects. Lawns with thick thatch layers or compacted soil may harbor more insects, drawing moles in.
- Mulch and compost: Mulch and compost can attract insects, which in turn may attract moles. While mulch and compost are beneficial for plants, they may create a favorable environment for moles if not managed properly.
- Gardens and flower beds: Areas with rich soil and organic matter, like gardens and flower beds, may attract moles due to the presence of earthworms and insects.
- Natural habitats: Proximity to natural habitats, such as wooded areas or fields, may encourage moles to explore your yard in search of food.
- Lack of predators: Moles are more likely to be present in areas where their natural predators, such as owls, hawks, and foxes, are scarce.
- Soil quality: Moles prefer loose, well-aerated soil that allows for easier tunneling and access to their prey. Compacted or clayey soils may be less attractive to moles. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep your soil aerated — you just need a way to stop the moles from getting in.
Methods of Mole Control Using Traps or Bait
Now, we have learned from first-hand experience that once moles have set up home in your yard, asking them nicely to leave doesn’t really do the trick. Trust me, we have given them plenty of opportunity to move on, but they didn’t take us up on it. Unfortunately, this means having to take a more forceful approach.
Moles don't have any special status or protection, so it's totally legal to trap or kill them on your property if they're causing trouble. In an ideal world, the mole wouldn’t be there in the first place, and preventative measures are always preferred. But if you are dealing with a mischief mole digging up your lawn, here are the most effective ways to deal with it.
Locate Active Mole Pathways
Before implementing traps or baits, it's crucial to pinpoint high-traffic areas, such as mole pathways. Identifying these pathways involves creating holes in the soil's top layer near a mole opening using a stick or your index finger. If the hole is promptly filled within one to two days, it indicates a primary pathway and an ideal spot for trapping moles.
Here are alternative methods for recognizing key pathways:
- Pathways typically exhibit a predominantly straight trajectory.
- These pathways often connect two mounds or link two separate pathway systems.
- They tend to align with fencerows, concrete paths, or other human-made boundaries.
- Pathways may trail along the wooded perimeter of a yard or field.
Mole traps are effective tools for controlling mole populations in your yard. Successful mole trapping demands a consistent and inventive approach. Moles, being intelligent creatures, excel at detecting and evading traps that are improperly set or placed.
There are several types of mole traps, each designed with specific features and mechanisms to capture or kill moles.
Harpoon traps: Harpoon traps consist of a pointed metal spike attached to a spring-loaded mechanism. When triggered by the mole's movement in the tunnel, the spike shoots forward, capturing or killing the mole.
How to Use:
- Locate an active mole tunnel by identifying raised ridges or fresh molehills.
- Use a probe or a small stick to find the main tunnel. Once located, create a hole large enough for the harpoon trap.
- Set the harpoon trap according to the manufacturer's instructions, ensuring the spike is properly loaded.
- Place the trap in the mole tunnel, covering the hole with a piece of sod or board to block out light and prevent tampering.
- Regularly check the traps and reset or reposition them as needed.
Scissor traps: Scissor traps consist of two scissor-like blades that close when triggered by the mole's movement. We recommend the Garsum Plunger Mole Trap. Once the sensing device detects even a subtle movement, the razor-sharp scissors swiftly trap and dispatch the mole. Upon capturing the mole, the trap springs up, signaling its success and allowing for easy identification from a distance.
How to Use:
- Locate an active mole tunnel as described above.
- Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the scissor trap and set it according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Place the trap in the tunnel, ensuring the blades are properly set.
- Cover the hole with sod or a board to create a dark environment.
- Regularly check the traps, release captured moles, and reset or reposition the traps.
General Tips for Mole Trapping:
- Wear gloves when handling mole traps to minimize human scent, which could deter moles from approaching.
- Place traps in active mole tunnels to increase the likelihood of capturing moles.
- If using non-lethal traps, check them regularly, preferably daily, to minimize the time a captured mole spends in the trap.
- Consider using multiple traps simultaneously to increase your chances of successful mole control.
Remember, trapping moles requires patience and persistence. It's essential to monitor and adjust your trapping strategy as needed based on the effectiveness of the traps and the level of mole activity in your yard. With that said, take a look at how we got rid of a mole in just 10 minutes:
Baiting is a method that involves using poison to eliminate moles within their burrows.
Typically, three distinct types of mole baits exist: grain baits, gel baits, and synthetic worm baits. However, their effectiveness varies:
- Grain pellet bait formulations may yield inconsistent results, relying heavily on both the geographical area and the specific mole species present.
- First-generation anticoagulant chlorophacinone pellet baits can be effective during certain times of the year, necessitating repeated applications and potentially taking up to six weeks to completely eradicate mole populations.
- Earthworm-style baits such as Talpirid Mole Bait, containing the rodenticide bromethalin, are generally considered the most potent. These baits can kill moles after a single feeding, typically within 12-24 hours. Moreover, moles find earthworm-style baits appealing, as soil invertebrates are their primary food source.
One advantage of using baits is that poisoned moles typically die within their underground tunnels, eliminating the need to locate and dispose of their bodies.
Regardless of the bait type chosen, maximize success by inserting baits directly into mole tunnels.
Smoke Out the Mole
There are currently two federally registered fumigants used for mole control:
- Aluminum phosphine tablets
- Gas cartridges
However, fumigation is not a guaranteed mole control method. Moles are adapted to living underground, and attempts to smoke them out are unlikely to succeed. They construct complex tunnel systems with multiple entrances and exits. These tunnels are well-ventilated, and the design allows moles to escape easily in the presence of smoke.
They are also resilient creatures and can adapt to changes in their environment. They have a high tolerance for variations in temperature, humidity, and air quality, making it difficult to use smoke as an effective deterrent.
To enhance the effectiveness of fumigation, it becomes crucial to insert any fumigant deep into the mole tunnel. Additionally, it is advisable to use fumigants only when the soil's moisture content is sufficient to confine the gas within the tunnel.
It's worth knowing that successful fumigation may necessitate repeated or substantial doses of the fumigant, making this traditional control method considerably more expensive and time-consuming compared to trapping or baiting.
Flood Out the Mole
While this is a known mole control technique, flooding out a mole using a hose or bucket of water is not usually an effective method.
Moles are well-adapted to living underground, and flooding their tunnels is unlikely to drive them away. Moles are capable swimmers, and they can survive temporary flooding by moving to deeper portions of their burrows or even swimming in flooded tunnels.
Moreover, flooding your lawn to control moles can have negative consequences for plants and soil. Excessive water can lead to root damage and soil erosion — and create an environment conducive to other issues like fungal diseases.
Related: Turf Wars: How to Treat Lawn Fungus
Preventative Methods for Mole Control
For preventative methods of mole control, several strategies can help deter moles without harming the environment. These methods aim to disrupt the mole's habitat or make your yard less appealing to them.
As moles are likely looking for food, the most obvious and effective way to prevent them from coming to your lawn in the first place is to eliminate their food source.
Our Recommended Pesticide: Acelepryn SC
Acelepryn SC is a liquid insecticide designed to combat pests that pose a threat to your lawn. With a single application, it targets pests such as armyworms, white grubs, turf caterpillars, billbugs, annual bluegrass weevils, European crane flies, chinch bugs, spittlebugs, and more — a mole’s banquet! It is designed to be safe for pollinators like bees and beneficial invertebrates such as earthworms. While worms are one of a mole's favorite dishes, they are so beneficial to your soil that you don’t want to get rid of them.
Noteworthy benefits of Acelepryn SC include that it is considered one of the safest insecticides in the industry and can be used around people and pets when applied as directed. This insecticide is suitable for application on all grass types, including cool-season lawns like Kentucky bluegrass, turf-type tall fescue, and ryegrass, as well as warm-season lawns like Bermuda, St Augustine, Zoysia, Centipede, and Bahia.
Acelepryn SC utilizes chlorantraniliprole as its active ingredient, providing excellent season-long control over grubs and armyworms with just a single application in spring.
For ease of application, a battery-powered 4-gallon sprayer with a large droplet nozzle is recommended. The optimal time for application is as early as April or May, and it can be applied later in the season with good results. Watering after application is advised, and topdressing and aeration do not reduce the effectiveness of the product.
Moles are drawn to lawns with moist soil because it facilitates their tunneling and burrowing activities — another reason not to try and flood them out. Moist soil makes it easier for moles to navigate, search for food, and create their intricate tunnel systems. By reducing watering, you create an environment that is less hospitable to moles for several reasons:
- Limited food availability: Moles primarily feed on insects, grubs, and earthworms that inhabit the soil. Reduction in soil moisture can lead to a decline in the population of these soil-dwelling creatures, making the area less attractive to moles.
- Difficulty in tunneling: Dry or compacted soil is more challenging for moles to tunnel through. By allowing the soil to dry out, you create conditions that are less conducive to mole excavation. This can disrupt their established tunnel systems and make it harder for them to move around.
- Unfavorable environment: Moles prefer a certain level of humidity in the soil. Drier conditions may create an environment that is less comfortable for moles, encouraging them to seek more suitable areas with moister soil.
While reducing watering can be a helpful strategy, it's important to strike a balance. Overly dry soil may also attract moles as they search for areas with higher insect activity. Therefore, it's advisable to monitor soil moisture levels and adjust your watering practices accordingly. Remember, most lawns only need around an inch of water a week to stay healthy, especially in cooler seasons. So watering your lawn less frequently won’t affect the health of your grass.
Look After Your Lawn
This goes without saying of course, but another great reason to keep your lawn well mowed is that moles seek safety and cover in tall grass and dense vegetation. Regular mowing minimizes the availability of tall grass, making the environment less attractive to moles.
Mowing the lawn and doing yard maintenance activities can disrupt existing mole tunnel systems. Moles prefer undisturbed environments, and regular lawn care can interfere with their established networks of tunnels, encouraging them to seek less disturbed areas.
Moles often use piles of organic debris, wood stacks, or cluttered areas as cover. Keeping your yard tidy by removing such debris eliminates potential hiding spots and reduces the attractiveness of your yard to moles.
Planting Deterrent Plants
While there is no foolproof way to keep moles out of your yard, certain plants are believed to have properties that deter them. Here are some plants that are commonly considered deterrents to moles (but note that there is no scientific evidence to prove this):
- Daffodils (Narcissus)
- Crown Imperial (Fritillaria imperialis)
- Marigolds (Tagetes)
- Alliums (Onions, Garlic, and Leeks)
- Castor Bean Plant (Ricinus communis)
- Euphorbias (Spurge)
- Caper Spurge (Euphorbia lathyris)
- Fritillaria Meleagris (Snake's Head Fritillary)
Electromagnetic Stakes and Ultrasonic Devices
Incorporate technology into your mole control strategy with electromagnetic stakes and ultrasonic devices. These gadgets emit vibrations or sounds that disrupt the mole's sensitive hearing, creating an inhospitable environment and encouraging them to relocate.
However, this method is not often successful for long. Once the moles are over the initial shock, they will quickly adapt to the device and carry on doing what moles do: digging, eating, and breeding.
Creating Barriers to Deter Moles
Implementing physical barriers is an effective strategy to stop moles from entering targeted areas of your yard. The use of buried wire mesh serves as a deterrent, hindering mole activity and excavation. Gopher baskets and gopher wire are particularly effective.
So there you have it. Tackling mole infestations requires a combination of understanding their behavior, identifying signs of activity, and employing effective control methods. From trapping to baiting and considering preventative measures, we hope this guide has provided insights you can use to reclaim your lawn from these evasive underground dwellers.