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Don’t Make a Mountain Out of a Molehill… The Cause is Logical and so is the Control


Moles are difficult to control…. I’m sure you know by now. With any nuisance pest it is important to first eliminate their food source. Ants in the kitchen… clean up crumbs, mice in the garage… put the dog food in a sealed bin, adult children that will not leave the house, put a lock on the refrigerator…. This method holds true to moles however, the biggest misconception in lawn care is that insecticides will influence mole populations. Insecticide use would only be warranted when there is a noted grub problem, having more than 5-10 grub worms near the surface per square foot causing threat to turfgrass health. With food so plentiful, you will likely notice other mammals, like skunks, opossum, and racoons as they peel back the sod to forage on the grub worms feeding just below the sod. Grub damage like this is rare and usually, it’s noticed and treated before conditions require extensive repair. Severe damage occurs when people ignore the early signs of stress or how the turf feels different, spongier under foot.

In my experience, earthworms are the most common food source for moles. This also helps to explain where and when you see activity. Moles will be found in areas of southern exposure in the spring, even late winter. Here, the soil is warm and while other areas of soil may still be frozen, worms and insects can be found in these microclimates. As the soil warms, mole activity will spread as they search over widespread areas looking for food. As the summer heat sets in, mole activity will condense and they will favor shaded areas, along shaded edges of tree lines, under shade trees and mulched areas on the Northside of structures. These areas are cooler and stay moist longer, the perfect habitat for worms. Usually, you will notice straight runs (tunnels) where the moles travel from habitat to feeding ground (even through sunny/dry soil). This tunnel is where you want to place your trap.

Moles, Tree Care & Mowing Service | Solon, Iowa City & Cedar Rapids, IA

I have also noticed a relationship between nice lawns and moles. Two neighbors can have similar layouts; only one lawn is kept nice while the other is thin, weedy, and unkept. Moles will be present in one over the other, it’s usually the “nice” lawn that gets all the attention. The thick, healthy turfgrass is insulation. The soil is protected from fluctuations in climate conditions and worms are plentiful. Worms are beneficial to the soil and help to alleviate soil compaction and by adding organic material most needed for most lawns. Unfortunately, this marriage also brings predators as the other half of nature’s balance. Trapping is still the most effective best practice for controlling moles in the home lawn.

Trapping is relatively easy but will require your attention, it is not a “set it and forget it” situation. Moles are active in the morning, and they move through areas where food is plentiful. Like dolphins feeding on a family of sardines, moles will zig and zag in a random pattern as they feed until the whole area appears “boiled up”. It is important to identify the “feeding grounds” so that you can locate the runs or tunnels that lead to them as the place to set traps. Feeding tunnels / runs are random, it is almost impossible to successfully trap in the chaos. Locate the main run, leading from a den or protected area to popular feeding area and set your trap here. The main run offers a singular place where the target passes two to four times per day. Set your trap in the straightest portion of this run for best results. If correctly placed, the trap will likely be tripped twice per day and is why monitoring is important. Sometimes the traps will be tripped without success, don’t be discouraged. If the trap was tripped it means you have the right spot. Additionally, not having a mole harpooned at the end of a trap does not mean you failed. An injured mole will usually bleed out because their blood does not clot to seal up the wound. You may have lost the battle, but the war remains. Reset the trap and try again.

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