COLUMBIA, Mo. – Moles have been extra busy this autumn, and you can almost see the resentment rise in homeowners as they survey their spoiled yards.
“Even with our dry end to summer, lots of mole activity is showing up, which you typically do not see,” said Brad Fresenburg, a University of Missouri Extension state turf specialist. “That tells us they are feeding on high populations of white grubs. It’s kind of a double whammy when you have a dormant lawn that may not come back due to white grubs feeding on it, but also have moles making a mess of your lawns.”
Many mistakenly believe moles kill plants by feeding on their roots, but moles actually prefer worms, grubs and other bugs. Plant damage is a side effect of their travels through the earth. The air pockets they create around the roots of ornamental plants and flowers can cause them to dry out and die.
Mole control can be a difficult and ongoing struggle.
“Killing moles isn’t a job for the easily squeamish, but there are some solutions for folks who want to stop the damage these animals cause,” Fresenburg said.
Traps, baits and repellants offer homeowners the best chance for revenge.
The first step is to locate active feeding runways. Use a broom handle or small stick to poke holes in the runways, then wait a few hours. The holes that have been plugged back up when you return indicate the active tunnels, which will be the focus of any course of action.
Many repellants are based on castor bean oil, and appear effective on the eastern mole, the predominant species in Missouri. You can spray repellants onto lawns with a garden hose or apply granules with a spreader. Repellants are available at local garden centers, but Fresenburg says results can be mixed.
Toxic baits may be a more effective approach. Kaput Mole Gel Bait and Moletox Baited Gel contain warfarin and are applied to runways using a syringe-like applicator. Worm-shaped baits – including Talpirid, Motomco Mole Killer and Tomcat Mole Killer – use bromethalin to poison moles. Retailers of these products include Gemplers, QC Supply and MFA. Cracked corn baits like Moletox II and Mole-Nots use zinc phosphide as the active killing agent, but moles do not prefer grains as a meal, so their effectiveness may be limited.
Traps provide one of the most efficient and economical controls. There are a variety of traps, from wire hoop and scissor types to tunnel traps. The elderly and those with mobility limitations may have difficulty setting some kinds of traps, such as the Victor harpoon trap. A newer scissor trap called the Easy-Set Mole Eliminator can be installed with little fuss, Fresenburg said.
“I find with scissor-type traps that most people can put their body weight into it to set it,” he said.
While it may prevent some lawn damage and satisfy a homeowner’s blood lust, battling moles remains a never-ending struggle.
“Moles are a perennial problem that never goes away. You may control a few, but in time they will be back in your yard feeding on earthworms.”
For more information:
-“Controlling Nuisance Moles” (MU Extension publication G9440), http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G9440.
-“What a Season for Moles and Voles!” (Missouri Environment & Garden, vol. 17, no. 10), http://ppp.missouri.edu/newsletters/meg/archives/v17n10/a3.pdf.