In order to answer this lawn and grass care question, it is important to understand a few things about moles. There are seven different types of moles found across the United States. Some are true moles and some are shrew-moles, a close relative. There are four species found on the West Coast, and the other three are found on the East Coast. They are, generally, not found in the arid, rocky areas of the country. The reason for this is that they require moist, loose soil in which to burrow. Their main diet is comprised of insects. In fact, they are classified as insectivores since they mainly eat grubs, earthworms, centipedes, and spiders. They may consume a small amount of vegetable matter, especially if it has been softened by water, but they cannot live on vegetation alone. They will end up starving to death on a vegetarian diet. Moles are often blamed for plant damage from the feeding habits of gophers, which are mainly vegetarians. Gophers will eat bulbs, roots, tubers, and other vegetative matter.
The mole is especially adapted to live underground. It has a streamlined body and is covered with a velvety fur. It can point forward, as well as backward, to allow for easy movement through their tunnels. They have strong front claws that point outward from their body. The front legs are well suited to 'swimming' through the soft soil in search of its next meal. The mole has a very delicate skull and does not use it for digging. It is so fragile that a mole can easily be stunned or killed by slapping a shovel against a tunnel where it is active. The eyes are virtually useless, and may only be used to detect light from dark. They do have acute hearing and are able to detect and locate its prey through several inches of soil. It, also, has a great sense of smell. The star-nosed mole has a ring of 22 fleshy appendages at the end of its snout. These are used for feeling its surroundings as it spends more time above than below the ground.
Moles do make tunnels as they search for food. They will push the soil upwards as they tunnel through. These tunnels are usually temporary and can easily be pushed back with your feet. They may make deeper tunnels that are permanent. These tunnels are one to two feet below the surface and contain the nest or den for the mole. The temporary surface tunnels are connected to the permanent tunnel. A good way to tell whether you have gophers or moles is the shape of the tunnel entrance. Moles will make a tunnel entrance, or molehill, that is shaped like a volcano. As the mole digs, they will push the excavated soil back to the surface. The gopher, on the other hand, will make an entrance that resembles a mine dump with the soil pushed to one side of the hole. If you suspect voles, we also have handy tips on controlling and preventing voles in your lawn.
The biggest problem with moles is the tunnels and molehills they create. They are objectionable to most people and can make it difficult to mow or walk across a lawn. You can determine which tunnels are active by pressing down the soil. Moles quickly rebuild their active tunnels, so watch for ones that are rebuilt. The deeper tunnels can be more difficult to locate, so look for the molehills and trace the trails from those points.
Controlling moles as part of your grass and lawn care is more a matter of aesthetics than necessity. Remember, moles eat a great number of insects. If your lawn has had a recurring problem with grubs, then a good way to control mole activity is to control the grubs. You can construct barriers of stone or concrete around smaller areas. These barriers should extend two feet below the surface and should be about 6” wide. Another method is to use water to flood the tunnels. The adults may escape, but the young will be controlled. Buried fencing is another method of preventive turf care. It should extend two feet below and extend slightly above the ground. Live trapping is possible by excavating down into an active molehill and burying a coffee can at the base of the tunnel. Cover it with cardboard or wood to keep out light. The moles will fall into the can and cannot climb out. Be sure to check the can on a regular basis, as they cannot survive much more than a day without eating. In case of severe infestations, you may wish to use a commercially made mole trap. There are several on the market, and their success will depend on the operator's knowledge of the mole's habits and of the trap.
There are numerous, unproven home turf care remedies. These range from Juicy Fruit gum, castor oil, castor bean plants, to electronic sonic devices. Regardless of the method, base the need on the extent of the damage. Moles can be beneficial and will aid in the overall health of your lawn. Deterring them is usually better than eradicating them. Contact Spring Green in your neighborhood to talk with one of our local experts about how moles may impact your lawn care efforts.
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