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Growing Concerns: Have tunnel vision to stop moles

Staff WriterMay 19, 2019

Moles are common in yards in Southeast Minnesota. They are typically more prevalent in yards with good soils that are adjacent to wooded or other natural areas.

Homeowners find moles objectionable because they push up ridges of soil as they dig tunnels just below the soil surface in search for worms, grubs and other soil insects.

From an ecological viewpoint, moles are very beneficial as they aerate the soil and eat large numbers of soil inhabiting insects that can be plant pests. Moles are really an important part of soil ecosystems. If it wasn’t for the rough surface created in lawns, most people would not even know moles exist since they spend their entire lives underground. In fact, I appreciate moles enough that I feel a little guilt every time I trap one or even advise folks how to get rid of moles.

Well, as much as this hurts here’s my knowledge on mole control. First it is important to understand that moles are usually solitary animals, so you probably only have one to deal with. They are very strong diggers so one mole can churn a lot of soil in a seemingly short time period. Their permanent tunnels are farther below grown and go un-noticed. They move to the surface to feed during rainy periods because worms and soil insects move closer to the surface in when soils are wet.

The surface trails are temporary and consist of a main trail that will be used for several days and side trails where they feed but only use once. Locating the main trail and targeting control efforts in those trails is the trick to catching moles. Active trails can be identified by stepping down sections of the trails then checking the next day to see which have been pushed back up. Target controls on the active trails.

I have found the spear type traps to be the easiest to use and most effective method to dispatch moles. These are set by pressing down a short section of the trail and setting the trap over that section. The tines should be run into the soil a few times to create pilot holes for the tines to enter the tunnel. If you do not create the pilot holes the trap will lift when it springs and not impale the mole.

The trap needs to then be pushed down so the trigger is against the pressed down section of the tunnel. When the mole pushed up the soil it will trigger the trap. If the trap is not triggered within a couple of days, move it, because the tunnel may no longer be in use. Using multiple traps increases your chances of getting an active tunnel.

The nice thing about traps is that you can usually dig the mole out and know for certain that you have gotten it.

Research has reported mole bates that are worm shaped as effective. Like traps, the bates need to be placed in active tunnels for moles to encounter and ingest them. If you use bates and cease to see mole activity the bates may have been effective or the moles may have moved off the property or back into their deeper tunnels. Note that grain or nut based bates are not effective because moles do not eat these items.

I have also read research that spray products containing caster bean oil work as a repellent to force moles to move off a property. I gave this advice to my friend Ann. She reported back that using it just seemed to bring more moles into her yard and the lawn damaged got much worse. I have not heard from Ann since, so maybe it is more of a friend repellent. I hesitate to give these products a strong endorsement but might be worth a try as an alternative to killing the critters.

There are many more products or home remedies like vibration devices, smoke bombs, juicy fruit gum and grub control insecticides. I am not aware of any research that proves these as effective remedies.

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