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Getting rid of moles requires ‘scouting’ and patience

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The old saying is that “if you have moles, you need them.” Not true, although moles feed on grubs (that you don’t need), they also love a fat earthworm, one of the best friends in any garden.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Moles get busy this time of year digging up lawns and gardens. Their activity can create tripping hazards and ruin the aesthetics of landscaped areas. That damage is why homeowners start seeking remedies this time of year according to Kelly McGowan, horticulture educator with University of Missouri Extension.

Many times people try favorite home or folk remedies but research done at the University of Missouri demonstrates that home remedies are can be ineffective.

“No matter what the control method — granular or gel baits, repellents, or traps — scouting techniques are the key,” said McGowan.

Moles will feed on earthworms and grubs every two hours, 24 hours a day. Once a mole has eaten the food supply in a run, the mole will stop using that run and start a new one.

“Mole traps and baits must be placed in the active runs to be effective. That makes good scouting essential,” said McGowan.

To find active mole runs, McGowan recommends poking a hole through the top of the run with a broom handle. Mark the location with a flag a few inches to the side of the run.

“In about two hours, check the run, and if the hole is repaired or plugged back up, the run is active and will be a good location for baits and traps,” says McGowan.

Moles can smell human scents on some types of bait. Using gloves while handling mole baits can help increase product success.

Many products tend to work as a repellant with castor bean oil as the active ingredient.

These products need to be sprayed (garden hose?end applicator) or granule applied (through a spreader) at regular intervals.

“The repellant type products are marketed as natural and safe, but information about effectiveness is mixed,” said McGowan.

Trapping is still the most efficient means of controlling moles, and anyone can be successful by following a few simple steps outlined in MU Extension guide G9440, “Controlling Nuisance Moles,” available from local offices or online at http://extension.missouri.edu.

“Controlling and trapping moles requires time and patience. Your success with controlling moles is dependent on locating active runways and the proper placement of a trap,” said McGowan.

Moles live most of their life underground and are specialized animals for their subterranean way of life. Moles construct networks of tunnels in the soil surface.

Many tunnels are built after rains when the mole is searching for new sources of food. Those tunnels and are usually not re-used from day to day. Digging of surface tunnels normally proceeds at a rate of 1 foot per minute.

Moles are carnivores, and living organisms constitute about 85 percent of their diet. This includes earthworms (their main source of water) and grubs, primarily; however, millipedes, centipedes, spiders, sow bugs, snails, and slugs are taken in considerable amounts.

For more information or answers to your specific lawn and garden questions, contact the Greene County Master Gardener Hotline at 417- 874-2963.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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