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Choose treatment properly for moles

Moles become active each spring, with tunnels appearing as raised areas of soil in lawns and garden beds.

"Questions about mole control are probably the most common question I've received in my 27 years with University of Illinois Extension," says Rhonda Ferree, Extension Educator in Horticulture. "Mole damage is frustrating and unfortunately homeowners sometimes resort to costly, ineffective, and potential unsafe methods in their fight to control them."

Trapping is the most successful method of getting rid of moles, but patience and persistence is often needed. Some of the best times to trap are when tunnels are first noticed or after the first fall rains. Moles are insectivores, feeding on live earthworms, grubs, beetles, ants and other insect larvae. Their food source during the spring and early summer is primarily earthworms.

Some people assume that treating the lawn for white grubs will solve the mole problem. But, since moles feed primarily on earthworms, the application of insecticides to reduce the number of grubs is not likely to be successful on moles. Most turf insecticides have little effect on earthworms, which is fortunate because the earthworms are beneficial in the soil for aeration and other conditioning.

Spring is also not a usual time for grubs to be present in sufficient numbers for treatment. Annual white grub populations are usually more prevalent, if present at all, in the late summer. There are always some grubs present and their removal does not insure reduction in mole problems. Treatment for annual white grubs should be done in mid to late August in northern and central Illinois for most effective control. Most importantly, chemicals should only be used when grub populations and damage are present at appropriate levels to warrant control.

Traps work well because they capitalize on the mole's natural instinct to clear an obstructed tunnel. Retired Extension Educator John Church always said that a harpoon trap is perhaps the easiest to use. Follow directions that come with the trap.

The key to success is to find their active tunnel. Active tunnels are usually somewhat straight and connect other tunnels or soil mounds. Active tunnels can be identified by mashing down a few inches of each tunnel and marking it with a flag or stick. Active tunnels will be repaired and rebuilt within a few days. If after two days no mole is caught, reset it over another active tunnel.

Feeding tunnels, on the other hand, tend to be meandering and winding and commonly make a dead end without connecting with another tunnel. Feeding tunnels are the path where the mole traveled during feeding and will be unlikely to be reused. Thus a trap placed across a feeding tunnel will not usually catch a mole.

For additional information on moles and other wildlife management, go to University of Illinois Extension website or contact your local Extension office.

Adapted from article by: John Church, Retired Extension Educator in Natural Resources Management