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Moles - how to control and prevent them in your lawn

Mole Moles are widespread throughout Britain but absent from Ireland. They are a protected species in Germany. Moles are from the animal family Talpa europea. They are solitary creatures that live in a system of tunnels, feeding on earthworms and insects that fall into their tunnels.

To the majority of Gardeners, they are a real pest, especially in lawns!

Appearance & Biology - Moles are 15 to 20cm long with grey to black velvety fur. They have very powerful, shovel-like front limbs, used for burrowing underground. Moles, live most of their lives underground and exist on a diet of earthworms and other soil invertebrates. Moles are known to eat every four hours regardless of the time of day or night.

They can burrow up to 100 metres per night. They scour their network of tunnels during each feeding session, searching for food sources that have dropped or entered into the tunnels, making repairs where necessary to the network.

An 80g mole consumes about 50g of worms a day. Moles will also feed on soil-dwelling pests such as Garden Cock Chafer Beetle Larvae and Leatherjacket Larvae . They have poor eyesight and use touch, hearing and smell to detect their prey and to help them sense danger. Despite their poor eyesight, they are very light sensitive. They dig two types of tunnel, both of which are 4cm or 5cm in diameter. Those immediately beneath the surface are dug by males looking for females during the breeding season (February to June). Deep holes, between 5cm and 20cm beneath the surface, are used for breeding and feeding. Tunnels can be up to several hundred metres long. Molehills on the surface are the means of disposing of excavated soil. Nest sites are marked by large molehills. Females produce litters of three to five young. Their average lifespan is three years. Apart from the breeding season, moles lead solitary lives so one animal could be responsible for the visible activity over quite a large area. Vacant tunnel systems are often re-colonised by another mole from an adjacent area.

Symptoms of infestation - Raised ridges and mounds of loose, excavated earth commonly known as mole hills indicate the presence of moles. They make the turf look unsightly and difficult to mow.Their burrowing can lead to subsidence, especially on lighter soils and they can cause considerable damage to newly seeded lawns. Their activities can destroy a lawn or playing surface, so time and effort is needed to replace or remove the soil that forms the molehills. The amount of soil moved by one mole has been calculated to be the equivalent of a person moving 4 tonnes in 10 minutes from a depth of half a metre!

Occurence - Moles can thrive in a variety of situations, but attacks are more likely in sandy, free-draining soils and in turf areas that are poorly maintained and have little use. Activity is greatest in gardens in late winter and early spring, although new tunnels can appear at any time of the year.Turf areas provide a food source for moles, in the form of earthworms; there is evidence of a direct link between the worm population and the amount of mole activity.

Damage threshold - Moles do not feed on the turf grasses, but they undermine the root system of the plants, which can affect growth. Even small populations of moles can do considerable damage to sports turf, playing surfaces and amenity lawns but control may not be necessary in less intensively used or managed areas. The damage is a side-effect of moles’ subterranean lifestyle — they live on a diet of worms and other soil invertebrates and, although they do not eat plant material, they could damage roots during their tunnelling activities.

Life Cycle - The main breeding season is from February to June, each female rearing about 4 young in an underground nest. The young leave the parental home after a few months and establish their own tunnel systems.

Mole in a Hole Cultural Control Measures

- Eliminating the food source of worms and grubs can control mole activity. Controls are divided between deterrents, traps and poisons.  Use traps to capture the moles or repellent devices like sonic devices that omit a sound audible to Moles but not Humans.

Controlling earthworm populations and a number of proprietary pesticides are available - Earthworm and Worm Cast Control will reduce the moles’ food supply but it is important to remember that earthworms are also very important for soil aeration, health and fertility. There are two types of traps; the Duffus trap for surface tunnels and the calliper trap for deeper ones. The best time for this is in the late winter and early spring when they are most active.

Chemical Control Measures - The use of a fumitory pellet via an enclosed applicator manufactured by Luxan called 'Talunex' based on Aluminum Phosphide – a hydrogen phosphide gas that is released in contact with moisture. Only trained operators, trained by the Manufacturer or it’s Agents can purchase and use this product. .

Failing this, go to an internet directory and search for Pest Control Services or visit our friend Jeff Nicholls otherwise known as The Mole Catcher

We know a little song about a Mole, sung by The Southlanders


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