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Moles

The garden mole (Talpa europaea) is a stocky, black/dark brown nocturnal mammal that has adapted to life underground. It has wide, flat paws with sharp claws to assist with digging and burrowing for earthworms. A bite to the head of an earthworm immobilises it and they can store them alive in specially created chambers for later consumption. Almost blind with a weak sense of hearing, moles rely on the vibrations they feel to hunt worms and avoid danger.

They’re typically found in woodlands or grassy areas, such as gardens. Moles eat insects that may destroy the roots of crops and their digging aerates soil, making it better for growing plants in. However, they can cause a headache for gardeners who have plant beds and mowed lawns upturned.

Once a permanent tunnel has been established deep underground, it can be used by future generations of moles. Feeding tunnels can be temporary and are usually just below ground, often breaking the ground to create molehills. Their tunnels can cause root damage and stop plants and crops from establishing. A mole can tunnel up to 4m in one hour, becoming a problem very quickly, building tunnel systems that can cover hundreds of metres.

Their main predators are owls, cats, dogs and stoats, among others. Breeding season occurs in the run-up to spring, with litters being produced in spring.

Signs of infestation

The most common sign of a mole infestation are molehills, mounds of overturned soil year-round with the exception of winter when they resort to using tunnels deeper underground. It’s rare to spot a living mole on top of the ground. You may also notice plants or crops dying, or raised ridges along the ground which may indicate there’s a mole tunnel running underneath.

Prevention

Given that moles can tunnel metres underground, it can be very difficult to prevent them from entering your grounds. Removing vegetation that attracts worms, such as weeds, can help. Tainting their food source so they look elsewhere can be the most humane form of control.

Treatment

Use Defenders Mole Scatter Granules on the area affected by mole activity. The toxin-free granules are biodegradable and contain castor oil which, when broken down, affects the taste of the earthworms. When unable to find a pleasant food source, the moles will leave and look elsewhere. This is a natural treatment which causes no harm to the moles and is suitable to use around children and pets. Use the granules as a humane alternative to mole traps.

Historically, strychnine was used to poison the moles but this is now illegal as it causes a long, drawn-out death for the mole and has been known to affect non-target wildlife and humans.

Trapping for moles

Defenders has two main kinds of mole trap available: the claw/scissor trap and the tunnel/barrel trap.

Claw/Scissor Trap

These traps have two setting arms which are ideal for easy handling – when in position, they stick up out of the soil and act as a visual aid when determining whether the trap is set or has been sprung.

Tunnel/Barrel Trap

Must be fully inserted into a mole tunnel when set to leave no visible trace of the trap on the surface. Best used with Hi-Vis Mole Trap Markers to easily identify where traps have been positioned. Growing in popularity, these are ideal for use if you don’t want unsightly trap handles sticking out of the ground. A setting mechanism at each end of the trap makes it possible to catch a mole at either end, regardless of where the mole enters the trap, and two moles can be captured at once.

Ultrasonic deterrents

The Mega-Sonic Mole Repeller and Mega-Sonic Solar Mole Spike utilise ultrasonic technology to create an uncomfortable environment for moles that doesn’t harm them. The vibrations and sonic pulses push them away from the protected area. Both devices are hi-vis to help prevent lawnmower run-over. Suitable for use where traps aren’t an option if children or pets are at play, risking accidentally triggering of traps.

Using mole traps

Locate a mole run

Use a pointed pole, such as the Mole Run Finder, to test the ground between two new molehills or along a fence line. The dibber will become looser in the ground when it hits the run.

Siting a scissor trap

Using a trowel, loosen the soil and push a set mole trap into the ground – don’t make the hole any wider than the trap; the edges need to push against the sides of the run. Push the trap fully into the hole so that the mole cannot pass underneath the setting ring; the legs of the trap may have to be pushed through the base of the tunnel. It’s also important not to leave any loose soil within the tunnel, so remove it or compact it. Test that the trap will set quickly and, if satisfied, re-set the trap. Fully cover the trap with grass and soil, ensuring there is no empty space left above the trap that may let light in or permit the mole to go around the trap.

Siting a barrel trap

Cut away a piece of ground the same size of the barrel trap on top of the tunnel. Compact the bottom of the mole tunnel so the mole can’t easily dig underneath the trap. Set the trap and push it gently into the hole, ensuring the trap loops are touching the base of the tunnel. Fully cover the trap with grass and soil, ensuring there is no empty space left above the trap that may let light in or permit the mole to go around the trap.

 

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