Darrell Blackwelder: How to control moles

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 25, 2023

One of the frequent questions people ask during a gardening talk concerns moles. Controlling moles is not easy; many have accepted these animals as part of the natural environment. They consume soil insects and reduce soil compaction, so their activity is not all bad. However, heaved ridges and mounds often damage shallow-rooted lawns or shrubs by drying of soil or exposing roots. Raised ridges also presents a walking hazard, especially to the elderly that enjoy walking in their lawns and gardens.

Moles tirelessly tunnel in lawns, gardens and plant beds in search of grubs and other soil insects. The mole’s entire diet is entirely animal including earthworms, ants and beetles. Moles do not feed on plant material such as roots, stems or bulbs; however, damage often occurs when moles search for food. Field mice and voles often use this ready-made highway as a way to their food source of plant roots and bulbs.

Controlling soil insects is one of the most viable options. Grubs can be controlled with granular soil insecticides. Elimination of grubs with insecticides may take two to three months for complete control. The entire lawn or garden area must be treated.

Another method is to use a spear-type trap designed kill the moles as they move about in the tunnels. Locate a frequently used tunnel by caving a short section and observing daily to determine which run is being used. These tunnels are usually straighter than most. Repeat this process for two or three days; then place the traps on their major runways. The mole is empaled by the spring-loaded mechanism on the trap. One or two traps should be enough for the average-sized lawn. Ironically, one of the best methods of control is a hungry cat. Cats and often dogs can spot a mole. However, if you have an aggressive dog, your lawn will pay the price when they dig up the pest. Go to https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/moles-in-turf for more detailed information for mole control.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu.