Moles probably aren’t the wildlife pest you’re most afraid of. Nobody’s scared of running into a mole while they take out their garbage at night. What the mole lacks in intimidation potential, however, they more than make up for in their capacity for frustration. Sure, other animals are scary, but few can do the damage a mole can–before you even notice it!
Moles are one of the most common and major digging pests in the Midwest. They can wreak havoc on your lawn in a surprisingly short period of time. If you don’t know how to spot them, they’ll have wracked up expensive damage before you can react. Here’s everything you need to know about moles to keep them from tearing up your lawn.
What Moles Are
Moles are small, rotund mammals that live in elaborate tunnel systems they build underground. There are hundreds of species of mole, and different varieties thrive on every continent except South America and Antarctica. The most common mole in the Midwest US is the Eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus). Eastern moles are medium-sized (16 centimeters long, around 2.5 pounds) mammals with short, dark brown or grey fur.
Like most types of mole, Eastern moles are highly specialized diggers. They have a flattened, elongated head and snout that makes pressing through dirt easier. Their eyes are covered by thick skin to protect them during the digging process. Even the mole’s ribcage is designed to help with digging: its shape helps steady the mole’s powerful digging arms. Mole’s paws are very large, and they face sideways and outwards to facilitate effective digging. They use these paws like shovels to “scoop” dirt out of their way while building their tunnels.
What Moles Want
Moles feed primarily on earthworms and subterranean insects such as grubs and larvae. They hunt these insects by continuously expanding shallow areas of their burrows close to the surface, called surface runways. Surface runway tunnels are visible from the surface as ridges of upset soil. Moles become particularly active after rain, when earthworms dig their way toward the surface to soak up moisture. Moles hunt by digging until they find their prey and then paralyzing it with a specialized saliva.
Eastern moles are attracted to soil that’s easy for them to dig through. They avoid very dry, very wet, or very heavy soils such as clay. They’re known for burrowing in open fields and prairies, which makes them common in yards, as well. The looser and less stony the soil, the more attractive it is. Eastern moles are solitary mammals, and only interact with one another to mate.
Problems Moles Cause
Moles can inflict significant yard damage while building and expanding their burrows. The most immediate and noticeable damage happens when they construct surface runaways across yards.They tend to kill grass and other plants by inadvertently slashing apart root systems as they dig. You may notice long, narrow swaths of dead grass or dirt ridges zigzagging around your yard where moles have been digging. If a mole digs around gardens, they could disrupt and kill larger plants, too.
Along with their surface runways, moles make a different, deeper kind of burrow to live and raise young inside of. These burrows might also zigzag through your yard, but they’re deeper and more difficult to notice. This type of burrow won’t affect your yard as quickly, but it can still inflict significant damage. Burrows can compromise the integrity of different parts of your yard, creating sinkholes or wet, sunken areas. Over time, the ground could even give way under foot or while mowing.
It’s can be quite difficult to reliably protect your lawn against moles. Moles attracted to subterranean pests and grubs, so preventing them will help. Spray your plants and lawn with nematodes or use anti-pest fertilizers to help drive away the insects they eat. You could also install underground mesh fences, but you’ll have to be careful to dig them quite deep. The pests can dig lower than you’d expect!
Moles are attracted to soil that’s easy to dig through. Another way to dissuade them is to make your lawn difficult to dig in. Break up your lawn with rocks, gravel, or clay to make it harder for moles to get through. Making a gravel perimeter around your yard significantly helps keep digging animals out, as long as the gravel goes deep enough. Use a shovel or pitchfork to cave in surface tunnels as soon as they spring up. If you can inconvenience them enough, the pest may try digging elsewhere.
Unfortunately, moles can be very difficult to keep away effectively, especially if your home happens to be near ideal mole environments. Moles frequently migrate onto lawns from nearby fields and woodlands. If you end up with them, it’s not because you did anything wrong!
If moles decide to make your lawn their home, don’t panic! You still have an option. You can always call Varment Guard. We can drive out your moles and keep them out, permanently.BACK TO BLOG