How to get rid of moles in your garden

Baits, repellents and traps can help to control moles

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Eastern mole
By Bert Cash from Brunswick , USA (Eastern Mole (Scalopus aquaticus)) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — When moles are active, many homeowners to seek unique remedies for the problem. However, the odds of success are increased when the right scouting techniques are used, according to Patrick Byers, a horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Some of the favorite home remedies include using human hair, Juicy Fruit gum, poison peanuts, mothballs, flooding tunnels with a garden hose and water, a hose connected to a car’s exhaust and finally, pets.

But new baits and repellents for moles work better than the home remedies some people swear by, said Byers.

Related:

How to keep wildlife out of your garden

How to keep pests out of your garden

How to choose repellents to control garden pests

“No matter what the control method — granular or gel baits, repellents, or traps — scouting techniques are the key,” said Byers.

Feeding on grubs

Moles will feed on earthworms and grubs every two hours, 24 hours a day. Once a mole has eaten the food supply throughout a run, the mole will stop using that run and start a new one.

“Mole traps and baits must be placed in the active runs to be most effective. That makes good scouting essential,” said Byers.

To find active mole runs, Byers recommends poking a hole through the top of the run. Mark the location with a flag a few inches to the side of the run or by using a landmark that is memorable.

“In about two hours, check the run and if the hole is repaired or plugged back up, the run is active and will be a good location for baits and traps,” said Byers

Human scents

Moles can smell human scents on some types of bait. Using gloves while handling mole baits can help increase product success and reduce possible chemical exposure to the applicator. Mole baits are pesticides and can be harmful if not properly used as directed by the label.

“Grubworm pesticides are used to kill grub worms and, unfortunately, can kill up to 70 percent of earthworms as well. Grubworm pesticides should only be used to kill grub worm infestations, not to control moles by reducing their food supply,” said Byers.

Repellants and baits

Most products tend to work as a repellant, with castor bean oil as the active ingredient. Many have been tested on the Eastern mole and appear effective on this species, which is found across the Eastern U.S. These products need to be sprayed (garden hose-end applicator) or granule applied (through a spreader) at regular intervals to maintain a barrier that repels these mammals to your neighbor.

“The repellant type products are marketed as natural and safe, but information about effectiveness is mixed,” said Byers.

Mole-Med (which may have changed its name to Chase due to new ownership) is available in both liquid and granular form. Other repellants include Scoot Mole, Shotgun Mole & Gopher Repellant, Mole Max, Mole-Out, Whole Control and Schultz Garden Safe Mole Repellant.

Two products called “Kaput Mole Control” (Lesco) and “Moletox Baited Gel” (Bonide) are water-based gels containing warfarin (.025 percent) as the active ingredient and flavored like their primary food, earthworms.

The latest mole bait registered is “Talpirid” (Bell Laboratories), a bromethalin-based product that looks, feels and tastes (so they say) like earthworms. Each worm contains a lethal dose of bromethalin. It is the only mole bait that has submitted efficacy studies to EPA.

MOTOMCO Mole Killer is a bait similar to Talpirid, but in a more affordable package of eight worms. There are also some poisonous granular baits of a different class including “Moletox II” and “Mole-Nots,” both of which are cracked corn baits laced with 2 percent zinc phosphide. While some results indicate excellent control with these products, remember that moles do not prefer grains in their diet, said Byers.

“Mole Patrol Bait” is the granular bait that is a ready-to-use and is highly palatable with unique attractants. This product contains chlorophacinone, a historically sound anticoagulant of the rodenticide industry. Some studies indicate 100 percent control of moles.

Trapping does work

Trapping is still one of the most efficient means of controlling moles, and anyone can be successful by following steps outlined in MU Extension guide G9440, “Controlling Nuisance Moles,” available at http://extension.missouri.edu.

Effective traps include the “Easy Set” Mole Eliminator scissor trap, the “Victor” and “Sweeney” harpoon traps, and the “Nash” hoop trap.

Habit and behavior

Moles live most of their life underground and are specialized animals for their subterranean way of life. The Eastern Mole is a small, sturdy animal about eight inches long, with a cylindrical body and elongated head.

The Eastern Mole is grayish-brown on the back to pale or more brown on the belly. Their velvety fur often has a silvery sheen. Their fleshy snout serves as a highly sensitive organ of touch and smell to seek out numerous food sources. They possess well-developed claws that have a specialized bone attached to the wrist, which aids in digging.

Moles construct networks of tunnels in the soil surface. Many of these are built after rains when the mole is in search of new sources of food and are usually not re-used from day to day.

Digging fast

Digging of surface tunnels normally proceeds at a rate of 1 foot per minute. They tend to feed and rest on two-hour cycles, 24 hours a day. They are carnivores and living organisms constitute about 85 percent of their diet. Moles are insatiable eaters and can consume 70 to 80 percent of their body weight daily.

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