Judy Loven, Indiana state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Damage Control Program stationed at Purdue, says: "Now is a good time of year to deal with moles. They are mating and breeding, which means that the males are roaming out and about."
Although the creatures may seem innocuous, they can cause large amounts of damage. "Moles contribute to the freeze-thaw cycle under foundations, slabs and sidewalks," Loven explains. "Their tunnels allow water to accumulate and cracks to begin. This is not something to be blase about."
What's worse, many of the fixtures of the modern suburban landscape actually attract the vermin. Compost piles and mounds of mulch are havens for moles, and flower beds, especially those loosened with peat moss, are their freeways.
"Some compost techniques use worms to break down the materials, " Loven says. "Moles are insectivores that eat earthworms. They love compost piles. In fact, sometimes when people add additional earthworms to their compost piles, they are just feeding the moles."
Mulch is also attractive to moles for much the same reason, and improving the soil in flower beds with peat moss makes it easier for moles to dig in clay soils.
"I wouldn't say mole damage is a tradeoff for our beautiful landscaping, but mole infestation is something we have to expect if we use these gardening techniques and products," she says.
Homeowners who are concerned about mole damage to the foundations of their houses can reduce mole activity by using crushed marble or pea gravel instead of bark chips as mulch around the foundation. "In some situations, folks may want to not have any landscaping next to their houses and instead have landscape islands away from the house," Loven says.
If moles already have established themselves, Loven says that using traps to kill or capture them is still the most reliable method for getting rid of the critters.
Although many other methods advertise that they work, their usefulness -- or uselessness -- becomes apparent once homeowners educate themselves about what moles are and how they live.
"Moles eat insects and worms. Basically they're predators, carnivores," Loven says. "Moles are not rodents. They don't eat grain, so plant- and grain-based poisons that work on groundhogs aren't going to work for moles."
Fumigation doesn't work on moles, either. "Unlike groundhog's burrows, which are short and finite, moles create a seemingly endless grid of tunnels," Loven says. "There isn't enough fumigant in the world to get rid of moles."
Besides these unproductive treatments, mole damage seems to spawn a number of futile home remedies and worthless products. "People think these things work because a few weeks after they put them out in the spring they see a decrease in mole surface activity," Loven says. "They think they've gotten rid of the moles, but as summer comes the female moles have just gone to deeper tunnels to have babies. It's just a different season for them."
Among the products and remedies to avoid:
To have the most success in controlling any pest, Loven suggests looking for products that are specific to that pest and then following the directions. "When people start making things up is when we have problems," Loven says.
Even if the product you are using is approved, Loven suggests other factors you should consider: "Look around where to plan to use it to see if the area contains children, pets, birds attracted to feeders, or anything else that might be affected by the chemicals or devices you plan to use."
For more information on dealing with moles, Loven suggests that people contact her office at (765) 494-6229 or the Extension educator in their county.
Source: Judy Loven, (765) 494-6229
Writer: Steve Tally, (765) 494-9809; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail, email@example.com
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