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Here come the Moles

Mole imageThis year’s mole invasion is something we’re likely to see a lot more often.

With Summer well and truly now underway, many of us are wondering what sort of Summer it will turn out to be. Wet or Dry? Cold ? or warmish like last year?

The volatility of the British climate is legendary; 2011 was a remarkably dry year (East Anglia was officially classed as a drought area by DEFRA), yet in 2012 we experienced the UK’s second wettest year since national records began in 1910. The persistent heavy rainfall throughout this winter also resulted in the wettest winter in England and Wales since 1766.

For those with domestic garden lawns, or even those who look after other grassed areas such as sports grounds, hotel gardens and municipal parks, wet weather means just one thing: an increase in mole hills and a battle to protect our precious turf.

The wet weather has brought about a significant increase in the UK’s mole population, with millions more moles being born than in previous years. The species is currently enjoying a “population explosion”, with numbers now estimated at between 33 million and 40 million.

If you’ve noticed the increased number of mole hills on the grass verges of your local roads (or, indeed, within your own lawn or sports field), you are not alone. Mole hills have appeared seemingly everywhere since the winter.

Why does wet weather mean more moles?

Wet weather raises the water table and forces earthworms to come closer to the surface. It also makes the ground softer and easier to dig through, allowing moles not only to follow the worms, but also to find a mate more easily – leading to the huge increase in mole numbers this year.

Frustratingly for gardeners, saturated soil also means moles venture further from their usual habitat in the woods and hedgerows. They explore drier environments, and this can bring them into contact with humans as their travels bring them into our gardens, and beneath our painstakingly cared-for and sometimes well-drained lawns.

Extreme downpours make the problem a lot worse

EasySet Mole TrapDavid Relf, Company Director of Somerset-based mole trap experts Beagle Garden Products, thinks that the wet winter he experienced was not just wet, it was extreme. “It is not just that it rained a lot this winter, it rained extremely heavily over very short periods of time”, he says. “This means the ground was unable to drain and we ended up with floods and saturated ground that remained uninhabitable by moles for extended periods of time.”

Relf explains the problem caused by this pattern of rainfall: “The UK’s mole population migrated to drier ground in greater numbers than would have been the case if the ground had been able to drain
gradually, if the rain had not been so heavy over short periods.”

Heavy rainfall looks likely to increase in the future

The situation looks set to continue. Met Office analysis suggests that the frequency of extreme rainfall in the UK may be increasing. Statistics show that days of particularly heavy rainfall have become more common since 1960.

According to analysis by Oxford University, the extreme rainfall events such that we have seen this winter, that would previously have occurred only once in a century, are now likely to be witnessed once every eighty years in the south of England.

The spring months of 2014 have been slightly drier than average in most areas. This is certainly good news for owners of lawns, but is it a case of ‘too little too late’? The explosion in mole numbers has already happened, and with every downpour comes a new need for them to explore drier terrain.  As Beagle’s Relf says, “the increasing occurrence of extreme rainfall means the mole population is not only likely to grow in the wetter years, but they are also likely to venture further from the hedgerows and end up ruining our lawns more often. We are going to see an increasing number of domestic gardeners becoming obsessed with mole catching, and adding mole traps and mole trapping equipment to the ‘essential tools’ of their garden sheds.”

The next few months will be a telling time. A dry summer will fend off the threat of moles for many of us, but a wet one will signal an onslaught. One thing seems fairly certain, though. The battle against moles is destined to be a recurring event, and a lengthy campaign.

Buy a Beagle Mole Trap


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