This stocky, brown mammal spends its life burrowing underground with its spade-like paws, hunting for earthworms to eat.
Since moving to Anglesey, we’ve been introduced to something in the garden we rarely see in Warrington…mole hills. My first reaction was to purchase humane items that would deter the moles from the garden, but never got around to it. Mainly because the country is their home as well as ours. So rather than deter wildlife from the garden, have welcomed them as our wildlife neighbours.
Today I looked further into these burrowing creatures and found they have their benefits for landscapng. They help aerate the soil and eliminate excess populations of harmful insects such as slugs.
|Statistics||Length: 15cm (plus a 4cm tail)|
Average lifespan: 3-4 years
|When to see||January to December|
Moles are very rarely seen as they spend most of their lives underground. They are stocky animals, with a wedge-shaped body and short tail. They use their spade-like paws to dig tunnels and hunt for their favourite meal of earthworms. They also like to eat underground grubs that would usually feed off crops, so moles can help to control unwanted visitors!
By digging up the earth, moles help make the soil healthier by aerating it. This allows more types of plants to grow, which in turn feed more insects. Not only this, their tunnels improve soil drainage, which helps stop flooding and huge puddles forming on the ground. Moles truly are the unsung heroes of the animal world!
How to identify
The mole is unmistakable. It is a stocky little animal, covered in black, velvety fur, with tiny eyes, a long, pink nose and two big, shovel-like ‘hands’ for front paws. You’re more likely to spot mole hills (the piled-up earth from their burrowing) than the moles themselves.
Widespread, but absent from the Isles of Scilly, most Scottish islands, the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland.
- Towns and gardens
Did you know?
A mole can dig up to 20 metres of tunnel in a day using its spade-like forepaws to effectively breaststroke its way through the soil. Every now and again, loose soil is pushed up to the surface, resulting in what we see as a mole hill.
The mole’s velvety coat helps it to move easily through the soil, and its mouth and nose are protected from debris by their down-facing position.
How people can help
Tarmacking and increasing numbers of hard surfaced gardens mean that moles are being pushed out of their natural habitats. Why not help green up the grey by making your garden a home for wildlife.
How To Identify Mole Damage In Your Yard & Garden
However, too many moles can affect the landscape, resulting in severe damage to the lawn and landscaping. The risk from too many moles includes quickly killing or damage plants, grass, and trees. I’ve been keeping a close eye on the number of mole hills and frequency of them appearing, and currently have a routine to prevent ‘overcrowding’ by eliminating food sources and practising good lawn maintenance (mowing the grass and removing wood stacks and debris piles that shelter them). We have not yet had to go any further by introducing humane repellents.
While mole damage may seem similar to the damage caused by voles, mice, or rodents, some key differentiators exist.
Here are 4 signs to look for:
1. Dead Grass
As we mentioned in a previous blog on the topic, patches of dead grass are a good indication that you have a mole problem.
As moles make their tunnels, they disrupt the root systems of nearby grasses, killing the grass at surface level and leaving dead patches in their wake.
Have you ever heard the saying, “making a mountain out of a molehill?”
When moles dig their tunnels, they act like mini excavators, moving all that dirt out of the tunnel and up to the surface, creating a telltale, mounded molehill at the tunnel entrance.
3. Mounds That Are Far Apart
Moles aren’t the only creatures that make entrance and exit mounds.
Gophers do something similar.
However, the difference is that gopher mounds are close together, while molehills tend to be about six feet apart.
4. Chunks Of Dirt
When gophers dig in your yard, they pulverize the soil into a smooth powder.
Moles, on the other hand, dig the earth up in chunks.
As you evaluate the mounds in your yard, look for clumps of soil, which is a sure-fire sign of moles.
If you’re wondering whether you have moles in your landscaping, it’s equally important to know what not to look for.
Since moles are insectivores, they don’t chew plants or root systems. Instead, they eat earthworms, grubs, and centipedes.
If you notice gnaw marks on your garden plants or vegetables, it’s likely that voles or mice are responsible – not moles.
What Attracts Moles To Your Yard?
Moles live their entire lives in their tunnels, so they’re more likely to frequent areas that offer the ideal habitat for feeding, breeding, and burrowing.
Here are 3 environmental factors that moles love:
1. Lots Of Insects
Moles eat a lot of bugs. In fact, the NWF reports that many species eat up to 100% of their body weight in insects each day.
Their diet consists of earthworms, white grubs, beetles, and larvae. Moles will construct elaborate burrows in areas where these insects are abundant.
2. Cool Temperatures
Contrary to popular belief, moles are not blind or nocturnal. They’re active throughout the day and prefer moist, cool soil that helps them regulate their temperature.
3. Landscaping Elements
The main runways moles construct tend to follow certain landscaping elements, like fence rows, paths, or other human-made borders.
They may also pop up along a line of hedges or another protected area. Moles will also burrow under shrubs and trees to locate the insects that live in their root systems.
Wherever moles set up shop, food is the primary motivator – because of this, controlling their food sources is one of the most effective ways to control the mole populations.
5 Home Remedies to Get Rid of Moles
So, you’ve got a mole problem, and you want to reclaim your garden.
Here’s how to get rid of moles humanely:
1. Apply a repellent
In some cases, a mole repellent is an effective solution for an infestation.
For example, castor oil will not kill moles, but it will cause digestive upset for the moles that come into contact with it – making your lawn a less appealing place to live.
Make your own homemade mole repellent with this recipe:
- Three parts castor oil
- One part dish soap
Mix four tablespoons of this mixture in a gallon of water and use it to soak the tunnels and entrances in the garden.
You can also purchase repellants in liquid or granule form and apply them to your yard via a spreader. Be sure to follow all label directions carefully if you choose this option.
Pros: Safe, humane, safe for pets and kids
Cons: must be re-applied regularly
2. Use Plants As A Barrier
Moles dislike plants with strong smells, such as daffodils, marigolds, and anything in the allium family.
Plant these species around the edges of your garden to form a natural barrier or plant in raised beds to protect root systems. If you prefer, you can also purchase ready-made mole barriers at your local garden store.
Pros: Safe, humane, beautiful addition to your lawn and garden
Cons: Time-consuming, requires ongoing maintenance
3. Create An Unfriendly Environment
Moles don’t like to live in disruptive areas. This is good news for you since it means getting rid of them can be as easy as creating an unpleasant environment.
To do this, purchase a sonic spike from your local home and garden store and insert it into the ground in your garden. This spike will use electronic pulses to create irritating sounds that encourage the moles to go elsewhere.
Don’t worry, though – you won’t be able to hear or feel the electronic pulses.
Pros: Easy, affordable
Cons: May not be as effective as other solutions
4. Keep Your Lawn Tidy
Moles feel safest under cover. Because of this, eliminating their shelter is a great way to encourage them to go elsewhere.
Keep your grass mowed and your garden beds manicured. Avoid using thick layers of mulch to cover beds and remove all wood stacks or organic debris piles.
You may also want to cut back on watering since excess moisture attracts insects and creates an ideal mole habitat.
Pros: Creates a beautiful lawn and garden environment and can be effective
Cons: Time-consuming, may not be effective to reduce severe mole infestations
5. Create an Artificial Drought
Moles and the earthworms they love to eat enjoy soft, damp soil. To make your yard less hospitable for them, avoid over-watering your lawn.
Keeping it on the dry side is a great way to limit earthworm activity and discourage moles from setting up shop in your yard.
Remember that most lawns only need about an inch of water per week to stay healthy, so this approach won’t make your outdoor space any less beautiful.
Pros: Organic, natural, effective
Cons: Long-term solution, won’t eradicate existing mole populations