Moles are rarely seen as these blackish-brown mammals live mostly underground. They dig out a system of tunnels and chambers, and dispose of the excavated soil by throwing up molehills. deep tunnels
They excavate three types of tunnel
- more than 25cm deep, most likely used for shelter rather than feeding. Deep tunnels are difficult to find and too deep for the easy application of control systemsfeeding tunnels
- 5-20cm below the surface, the soil pushed onto the surface as molehills. Moles patrol these to find invertebrates and these are the tunnels best used for controlsurface tunnels
- just under the surface of the grass roots. Moles look for specific invertebrates here and the soil or grass is pushed up to form a ridge
Most of the damage they do is to agriculture, where the inclusion of soil from molehills in silage is a potential source of disease in livestock. Stones damage blades used for cutting silage and molehills reduce the availability of grassland for grazing. Livestock may damage limbs falling into tunnels.
Molehills are unsightly on amenity and sporting grassland and they are particularly unwelcome on golf greens and bowling greens
Apart from the spring breeding season, moles lead largely solitary lives, so all the activity in a small garden could be due to a single animal. Moles feed on earthworms and other soil-dwelling creatures which fall into their tunnels. Moles constantly patrol their tunnels looking for these trapped invertebrates.
Moles' high metabolic rate means they have to eat at least every four hours. We do not advise live traps for moles because the mole, once trapped, needs to be cared for until despatched. It would be too time-intensive to have to feed a mole as frequently as they need.
There are two effective ways to control moles - gassing and trapping
- Aluminium phosphide is available for gassing moles in their burrows but only persons qualified and holding certification are able to resort to this method. This is because the use, storage and transportation of phosphine needs great care and it is vital that it is used responsibly, avoiding harming non-target species, such as badger setts.
- Duffus Tunnel Traps and Scissor Traps: Both these lethal trapping methods work well with a little patience and understanding of mole habits. The Duffus Trap is a barrel type trap where the mole is caught in a spring-activated wire loop. It is particularly useful in light crumbly soil that might otherwise cave in. The Scissor Trap is a pair of jaws kept apart by a trigger. Once set both these traps are invisible above ground so their position must be marked to allow relocation and inspection
Here's how to catch that mole:
- Locate a feeding tunnel about 10-20cm deep. (use a probe and gently push it into the ground between two molehills. As the probe enters the run, you will feel the pressure ease as the bulbous end of the probe drops into the tunnel. You will be able to gently move the probe up and down a couple of centimetres as the bulb touches the top and bottom of the tunnel confirming to yourself you have found a good tunnel).
- Excavate a hole down to the tunnel about the size of the trap you are using. Make sure that the excavation is lengthways along the tunnel.
- Set the trap and gently place it in the tunnel so that the trip mechanism is more or less central in the tunnel diameter.
- Put some soil back around the trap and place the turf back over the hole without impairing the trap mechanism.
- Check every 24 hours and place in a new situation if it has not caught after a couple of days.
Poisoning: This option is only available to registered and trained molecatchers.
Moles are members of the Insectivora order and are found throughout Britain, except Ireland.
- short, velvety black fur
- spade-like forelimbs designed for digging
- small pointed, fleshy snout
- very small eyes and poor eyesight
- they are very sensitive to vibration which assists them in finding their wriggling, moving prey
- body length 112-160mm
- weight 70-130g
- they rarely live beyond 3 years
- female rears a litter of 3-4 young between February and June
- young fully grown in 8-9 weeks
- leave their parents tunnel systems after about five months and start their own systems or take over vacated systems
- young are often reared in large 'fortress' molehills constructed specially for the purpose. Frequently these fortresses are constructed on land prone to flood, thus keeping the nest above the water table.
Moles are originally deciduous woodland creatures and are still found extensively in woodland but go unnoticed because of the nature of the ground.
- Moles have moved into our fields and gardens where they are able to find an abundance of worms. Their excavations can cause problems. In an agricultural context, if the soil from their excavations is picked up whilst making silage, it can damage machinery and cause the bagged silage to deteriorate. In a garden situation the molehills can cause damage to machinery and are regarded as unsightly.
- Moles prefer deep rich soils with an abundance of food. They are not found in peaty, acidic soils or in sandy soils.
- A tunnel system usually consists of an extensive network of several hundred metres of deep (20-60cm) and shallow (2-20cm) tunnels. The deeper tunnels are used constantly, but especially during times of drought.The shallow tunnels are the principle feeding tunnels because it is within the top 20cm of soil that the majority of worms, grubs and insects are active.
- Moles spend most of their lives underground
- they are solitary animals, only coming together for breeding
- a mole of average weight of 80g needs 50g of earthworms per day to survive
- moles tend to feed in alternate 3-4 hour cycles throughout a 24 hour cycle (because of this constant need for food, we regard so called 'humane live catch traps' as inhumane because they are rarely inspected frequently enough and may be forgotten for days at a time, resulting in starvation for the captive mole)
- the idea of the long mole tunnels is that burrowing insects and worms fall into the smooth tunnels and become easy prey for the mole that spends it's time travelling the tunnels looking for a hapless victim
- if its current system of tunnels is not producing enough food, the mole easily and quickly extends the network
- moles can store earthworms in times of plenty, immobilising them with a bite to the head segment. Over 400 alive but immobilised worms have been found in one chamber
There are plenty of so-called mole deterrents on the market, such as those that interfere with the earth's magnetic field, produce ultrasound or simply make a noise, but most are ineffective. So too are the traditional remedies, such as burying a milk bottle in the soil up to its neck or laying prickly vegetation in mole runs.
Physically, there is nothing available to prevent moles accessing your land so you either work around and tolerate your existing mole population or trap any moles as they re-invade your land.
Given that a resident mole will never allow another mole into its territory, you could perhaps live with the mole you already have. By far the majority of molehill damage will be done as the mole moves in and excavates it's network of tunnels. If you collect these excavations and use them for a garden top dressing or as part of a potting compost the excavations will gradually reduce in numbers as the mole gets the network established. There will always be the odd excavation but they should be manageable.