One pest that I get telephone calls and e-mails on almost all year long is moles. Moles are small mammals that create underground tunnels that are evident by mound-type (runways) across lawns, gardens, pastures and woodland areas.
These are used as travel lanes and cause damage to grass and other plants by disturbing and sometimes destroying roots, tubers and bulb systems.
Moles create the tunnels in search for food, which consists of mature insects, snail larvae, spiders, small vertebrates, grubs, and earthworms. The last two are their favorite foods. Because they eat many “bad” insect pests, they could be considered beneficial.
The common mole found in Delaware is small, about 5-8 inches long, dark gray, furry, and has a long tapered snout. It has no external ears and very tiny eyes. One feature that stands out is its large, paddle-like front feet and prominent toenails, which are used to dig the tunnels.
Moles have one litter of two to six young a year. Gestation lasts about six weeks and the pups are born anytime from mid-April to the end of May.
There have been many unsuccessful “home remedies” to control or rid lawn and garden areas of moles. Some of these include moth balls, chewing gum, castor oil, pickle juice, red pepper, human hair, ultrasonic devices and bleach. These don’t work because moles are meat eaters (insectivores.)
If moles have become a nuisance, the two methods recommended are trapping and reducing the insect populations in your yard. Remove their food source and they will forage another area for their food supply.
There are two types of traps: the harpoon and choker loop traps (read and follow manufacturer’s packaged instructions.) Trapping is more successful in the spring and fall, especially after a rain. In the summer and winter, moles are active in deep soil and harder to locate.
Also, you will need to select a frequently-used or active tunnel. To locate an active tunnel in your lawn or garden area, use your foot and step on it to cave in short sections of several runways. Remember to mark these areas with a stick.
Moles are very smart, so don’t disturb the tunnels more than necessary. The following day, check each tunnel to see which ones are reopened. The re-opened ones are active tunnels, which is where you want to place your trap. If there is no catch within a day or two, move to a new location and reset the trap.
Using insecticides to reduce food supply (the soil insect population) is also an option. The best time to control grubs is when they are actively feeding close to the soil surface in late sumer and early fall. After applying the soil insecticide, don’t expect mores to leave the area immediately, it may take a short while. Also, keep in mind that insecticides will kill most soil insects—good and/bad. For a fact sheet on grub control, contact your local Cooperate Extension office for fact sheets on Home, Yard, and Garden, or Lawn Insects and Their Control, or go to the website: http://ag.udel.edu/extension/horticulture/pdf/ent/ent-17.pdf Read and follow all label directions.