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Mole Control

Moles, contrary to lawn lovers perceptions, do not purposely set out to spoil your lawn. In fact if the lawn weren't there odds are the moles wouldn't be there either. Everybody's got to eat and what moles like to eat best happen to live in lawns – principally beetle grubs feeding on the roots of grasses. So the solution is simple: get rid of the grubs and you get rid of the moles.

There are a lot of products that kill grubs but the best that I've found (and the safest, most benign, and longest lasting) is called Milky Spore. It's not a poison but a bacteria that infects and kills the beetle grubs (and only the beetle grubs) long before they're large enough to tempt a mole.

Unlike all other grub control products this stuff is completely non-toxic (you can sprinkle it on your breakfast cereal if you want without adverse effects) and you apply it only once. When a grub encounters the bacteria you've applied to your lawn, the bacteria multiply in its body, making it sick and killing it. Then they stay in the soil at that spot until another grub comes along. It can take up to three years before you see dramatic results, but once that point is reached, the bacteria stay in the soil and reproduce making more bacteria. So as long as beetles keep laying their eggs in your lawn – which is every year – the bacteria never die off.

Chemical treatments on the other hand are toxic, expensive, unsafe for children or pets who play on the treated area after application, kill everything they touche including the good stuff living in your soil, and have to be applied once, and often, twice every single year to remain effective. So if you're childless, don't own pets, and have large stock holdings in Monsanto or Dow then this is probably the way to go for you.

If the moles are just visiting your yard (say from a neighboring field or forest) you can deter them by planting Castor Beans along your property's edge spaced every six feet or so. Moles hate castor beans and won't come anywhere near the plants. Bear in mind that all parts of the plant are poisonous, especially the seeds, so if you have small children who might pop them in their mouths, you may want to wait a few years to try planting Castor Beans.

For those who don't like planting things annually you can also spray castor oil along your property line. Castor oil comes packaged under several brand names so check the label. Most of these products attach to your hose and spray out mixed with the right amount of water. The one drawback to this product is that it has to be applied every month or two to keep up its effectiveness but I've noticed that once moles run into castor oil soaked ground they stay away from then on.

You can also kill moles outright with special traps and, if you're so inclined, you can buy poisoned mole bait and kill them that way. I've never had much luck with these products, primarily because they're a lot of work which is something I avoid, and because I don't think moles are stupid. Also, the baits resemble nuts and moles prefer grubs to nuts any day of the week. However there are lots of people who swear by them so suit yourself.

A cuter mole
Photo Copyright © 2005 Jim Jung and licensors. All rights reserved

My personal choice is the Milky Spore method because it's such an elegant solution to the problem – both long lasting, environmentally friendly and targeting a single pest. As for myself I made peace with the moles long ago when I realized how similar they are to people: they're just trying to make a living and raise their kids.

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Reprinted from the 2004 Waterman & Hill-Traveller's Companion
Copyright © 2005 Jim Jung
Some images © 2005