Moles may be small and funny-looking, but they can wreak havoc on a yard in no time! They may not eat your plants, but they can destroy grass and pants in their endless quest for insects. What exactly do moles eat? And, more importantly, what can you do to deal with a mole problem?
Moles can eat an insane amount! These active, little diggers eat 70-100% of their body weight every, single day. In order to find their food, moles do a lot of digging for dirt-dwelling worms and insects.
- About Moles
- What Do Moles Look Like?
- Where Do Moles Live?
- What Do Moles Eat?
- What This Means for Your Yard
- Signs of Moles
- How to Get Rid of Moles
- How to Prevent Moles
These funny-looking little mammals are insectivores. This means they are carnivores that specifically eat insects. They typically live alone and have a life-span of around 3-6 years.
What Do Moles Look Like?
Moles are very distinctive looking with a long, bald snout, and tiny, close-set eyes that are often hidden in their fur. They are 4-11 inches long, including a short tail, with velvety, dark fur.
Not only do moles have distinctive faces, but their feet are very unique. Moles have polydactyl front paws. This means they have webbed front feet. They use these big, paddle-like paws to dig after their prey.
Where Do Moles Live?
Moles spend most of the time underground in their elaborate tunnels. They can be found in most of North America, Europe, and Asia. They prefer to be solitary, except for during the mating season.
Moles prefer loose soil to dig their tunnels. Fields, forests, orchards, and backyards are usually the ideal home for them. One mole can have tunnels that extend for two or more acres! They create separate areas for living and hunting.
Moles are constantly on the hunt for insects. It’s all this digging that gives moles their crazy appetites!
What Do Moles Eat?
Moles only eat insects and lots of them! Insectivores are often considered beneficial, but, unfortunately, the damage moles cause to backyards often outweighs any benefit they may offer.
Earthworms are a mole’s favorite food! They will hunt through the dirt for earthworms all day, then even store some worms for later in their burrows.
Earthworms are a source of water for the moles, too! Worms contain quite a bit of liquid, which keeps moles hydrated.
Moles eat a variety of other insects in addition to earthworms, including:
Insect larvae are another source of hydration for moles. They are also an easy food source since they cannot wriggle away.
What This Means for Your Yard
Typically, insectivores are considered helpful! After all, they will eat insects that may cause problems for you and your yard. However, moles’ extreme tunnel-digging can cause a lot of damage to your grass, soil, and garden. Mole holes and tunnels can also pose a tripping hazard.
Moles can dig tunnels at a rate of up to 15 feet per hour! So, while they will not eat your plants, they can cause a lot of damage in a short time.
Signs of Moles
So, you think you may have moles! What should you look for to confirm your suspicions? You probably won’t spot a mole, since they spend most of their time underground.
The first, tell-tale sign of a mole infestation is the tunnels. Moles dig shallow tunnels right under the top of the soil when they are hunting for insects.
You may not be able to see these tunnels right away, but you may eventually see stripes of dead, dying, or sunken grass. Tunnels near the grassroots will damage the grass. These tunnels will appear in a zigzag pattern and are usually about 3 inches wide.
Moles dig deeper tunnels as a part of their tunnel system. These deep tunnels are usually at least 10 inches below the surface of the soil and are used for traveling, or as their living quarters.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill!” Molehills may not be mountains, but they may seem insurmountable when you are trying to salvage your yard from mole damage.
Molehills are usually 6-18 inches across, and 2-6 inches tall. They are shaped like cones of loosened soil. It can take a bit of detective work to find these entrances because the mole will often loosely plug the opening with dirt.
Dead Grass and Plants
Even though moles have no interest in eating grass and plants, they can inadvertently cause a lot of damage to plants in their unending quest to find insects in the soil. They will damage the root systems of grass and plants as they dig.
How to Get Rid of Moles
Moles can be tricky to remove from your yard! Typically, only one mole will occupy a single tunnel system, but you could have multiple moles in multiple tunnel systems if your yard has a lot of delicious insects for the moles to eat!
Moles rarely come out of their tunnels. It may be difficult to determine the number and location of moles in your yard. Conduct some surveillance before you attempt to remove the moles. It may be helpful to mark existing tunnel damage with spray paint, so you can note any new areas of mole activity.
This lethal trap, also called a scissor trap, is inserted into the mole’s tunnel. Once the trap is placed into an active tunnel, activate it. When a mole passes through the trap, it is triggered and will immediately kill the mole. Since this trap is underground, it is safe to use in yards with pets and children. I recommend either this trap or this one.
A snap trap is not the best way to trap moles. First of all, moles only eat insects. They will not be attracted to peanut butter, seeds, or any of the usual baits used in traps. Second, snap traps in your yard may harm children, pets, or other wildlife.
A live trap, such as this one, may be used to catch moles. To trap moles alive, I recommend placing this trap into an active mole tunnel. The trap can be baited with worms or insects. These traps are safe to use in yards with pets or children since they don’t use poison or a snap mechanism.
Always wear protective gloves when handling a trap with a live animal! Release the mole at least 5-10 miles from your home, so that it will not return to your yard.
Moles aren’t attracted to the usual bait. This poison looks like grubs to attract moles. These are poisonous, so keep them away from children and pets!
Call a Professional
If all else fails, and your resident mole still won’t leave your yard, it may be time to call a trusted exterminator to get rid of him for you.
How to Prevent Moles
This ultrasonic device sends sonic pulses through the ground at regular intervals. Moles and other pests find these sonic sounds disruptive. It may cause them to stay away from your yard!
Ultrasonic devices are safe to use in yards with pets and children. They are considered a humane way to drive pests out of an area.
If you have a dog or cat that regularly patrols your yard, you will be much less likely to have moles! Some homeowners put dog hair in and around mole holes to try to deter the moles.
This Castor Oil concentrate is designed to be sprayed over a yard with a hose end sprayer. Castor oil will penetrate the soil and the insects underneath. This will not kill the moles but will cause them digestive distress. Hopefully, this will be enough of an incentive for the moles to stay away!
If your yard seems to be an endless insect buffet for moles, there may be an issue with your yard or the soil. Contact your local extension office to inquire about a soil analysis.
This is usually a fairly quick, simple process. Once you are aware of any issues with your soil, the extension office can help you identify a solution. Fewer underground insects may mean fewer moles.
Look into beneficial nematodes for insect control. Check out our article about nematodes for flea control for more information about these helpful parasites.
Moles and their extensive tunnel systems can be damaging to your yard. It is important to understand what moles eat in order to come up with a solution to a mole problem.
Normal baits and traps will not work with moles, since they only eat insects. By trapping the moles underground, or using the proper bait, you should be able to return to a beautiful, mole-free lawn!