Have you started noticing mysterious raised tunnels forming seemingly overnight in your lawn or garden? If so, you probably have a mole infestation.
Don't worry, you are not alone. We have received many calls in the past week regarding tunneling activity.
Unfortunately, controlling moles isn't easy and can require a good deal of patience.
Moles are small mammals with pointed snouts and oversized forefeet used for digging. The most common mole species in our area is the eastern mole. They are about the size of a chipmunk as adults. They are solitary animals that rarely leave the safety of their tunnels. Moles are most active in the early mornings, especially after a rain shower.
Although they may appear to be damaging your plants, moles are meat eaters. Their favorite foods include earthworms, grubs, worms, spiders, snails and slugs.
As our soil temperatures rise in the spring, mole activity increases as more soil insects become active. Also, mole offspring are usually born in March or April, so now is the time to expect heavy mole activity.
One mole can make several tunnels, so it is difficult to determine how many moles you have in your yard.
The only sure way to control moles is through trapping. Mole traps can be found at many home improvement stores.
Before you set a mole trap, it is important to find the active main tunnels. With your feet, tamp down all visible tunnels, checking back frequently to see which ones are quickly re-formed. These are your main tunnels and should be where you place your traps. Most require digging out a small section of tunnel and a little patience. It may take several traps, and several trap locations, to rid your lawn of these pests.
There are various home remedy methods rumored to control moles, such as castor bean oil, chewing gum or mothballs.
I have also seen several mole repellants available which use sonic waves or vibration to scare away moles. None of these are truly reliable. The only other proven method which will help control moles is poison bait. Several baits are available, and most are poison ‘gummy worms' that mimic soil grubs.
Another method that might help control moles is to limit their food supply by applying soil insecticides.
These will help kill many of the grub insects in your lawn, but they will not be as effective in controlling earthworms, which have been shown to be a large portion of the mole diet.
Because there is no proven preventative control, sustained mole control can often be difficult.
New mole populations can easily enter from adjacent areas, especially since many of us live near wooded areas.
If all else fails, get a cat. Your feline friend will be more than willing to chase down and terminate any offending moles.
Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.