They’re back! Telltale cones of mud in your lawn are a signal that mole season is upon us, and if you do nothing, moles will take over your entire yard. Doing nothing is not an option. Over the years we’ve tried numerous ways to eliminate moles from our lawns, from traps of various kinds to the trusty 12-gauge, and only one has actually made a real difference.
Killing moles is NOT an effective way to get rid of them. Existing, empty tunnel networks are highly sought after by young moles, because it takes a lot of hard work for a mole to build his tunnel system. To protect this investment, moles “scent-mark” their tunnels daily as they travel through the system in search of food, warning other moles that the system is occupied. Moles are solitary and territorial and protect their tunnel systems fiercely. Young moles must start from scratch and build their tunnels in areas where other moles haven’t settled, unless they can take over existing tunnels.
Female moles are promiscuous. They typically build their tunnels in such a way as to connect with the tunnel systems of several males. Their offspring easily have access to tunnels dug by others, when they mature and their mothers forcibly send them out into the world. This means that killing a mole simply creates a vacant tunnel system that is soon taken over by another mole. This takeover saves young moles a terrific amount of work. Unless you manage to kill the female and her entire litter, you are simply changing tenants and not really solving the problem long-term.
Treating the infested area with castor oil-based repellent called makes their food taste bitter, causing them to leave the treated area. Called “Mole-Max”, it comes in a granular form, and is easy to apply with a lawn spreader. Mole-Max is the easiest, neatest and longest lasting deterrent we’ve found. Once it soaks into the ground, by watering or normal rain, it gives earthworms and grubs a bitter taste. It isn’t toxic to pets and won’t hurt plants or lawn grass.
Pick a day when rain is expected. Starting close to the house, we spread the Mole-Max in ever-widening circles. We make a few passes, wait a few weeks, and make a few more, further away, gradually driving the mole population ever further from our house and gardens. If moles are invading your lawn from adjacent pastureland or woods, it helps to treat a “buffer strip” along the edge, but first make sure you’ve driven them out of your yard.
I admit to using a heavier dose than the label directions suggest. In our case, the treated areas remain free of moles for several years thereafter. It’s not nearly as satisfying and fun as trapping or shooting ugly, disgusting moles, but it solves the problem for much longer. The label directions suggest poking holes in the feeder tunnels and dropping a spoonful of Mole-Max into the tunnel itself. Moles are fastidious creatures, so stinking up their habitat is a nice touch.
You’ll never get rid of moles permanently, any more than you can permanently rid your lawn of crabgrass or dandelions. It takes patience and persistence, year after year. Right now it’s time for your annual mole-prevention ritual.
Steve Boehme is a landscape designer/installer specializing in landscape “makeovers”. “Let’s Grow” is published weekly; column archives are on the “Garden Advice” page at www.goodseedfarm.com. For more information is available at www.goodseedfarm.com or call GoodSeed Farm Landscapes at (937) 587-7021.