Most people think of mole as yard and garden pests, but this really is not the case. These tiny, sightless mammals live underground in lawns and gardens where tasty bugs (i.e. grubs and earthworms) can be found.
Unfortunately, their activities can interfere with the appearance of your level, lush green lawn, and this disruption is usually thought of as negative.
Are moles really harmful? Can they be helpful? In this article, I will share some of the benefits of having moles in the soil beneath your lawn and/or garden. Read on to learn more.
Do Moles Cause Lasting Damage?
Moles raise ridges throughout the area where they live. Mole ridges are the outward manifestation of tunnels, which run between molehills. The moles dig these tunnels in search of underground insects to eat. The tunnels also provide moles with a way of navigating their subterranean world.
When moles dig tunnels, they have to do something with the resulting loose dirt. The simple answer is to shove the extra dirt to the surface to create a molehill at the tunnel entrance or exit. These little mounds of loose dirt and the ridges that run between them can be a bit unsightly looking, but it’s important to realize that moles do you a favour by keeping the soil aerated and keeping pests, such as grubs and slugs under control. They also eat spiders, earthworms, beetles and other creepy-crawlers in the lawn and garden.
Even though the hills and ridges are a bit disruptive, it is helpful to realise that this damage is temporary. Moles are very active early in the springtime when the soil is moist and soft, but their activities subside as the weather warms and the soil dries.
Because of the numerous benefits moles bring to your yard and garden, you are actually far wiser to simply let them go about their business for this relatively short period of time and then rake over the remaining ridges and molehills to enjoy a smooth and perfect lawn for the vast majority of the year.
Don’t Moles Eat Plant Roots & Tubers?
If you are having problems with destruction of plant tubers (e.g. flower bulbs, carrots, beets, potatoes, etc.) the real culprit is sure to be voles, chipmunks, mice and/or rats. Moles are carnivorous. They do not eat plants at all. They may disturb roots and tubers in their search for food, but this is typically harmless and serves to spur plants to develop stronger and more extensive root systems.
How Much Good Can One Mole Do?
Moles are very efficient at their work because they are designed to live underground. They have very poor eyesight, but they have a keen sense of smell. Moles’ ear structures are entirely internal, but their hearing is finely tuned. All this makes it easy for them to seek and destroy underground insect pests in great numbers.
Their nearly sightless eyes are covered by thin membranes to keep the dirt out as they dig their way through the soil. Their nostrils are positioned on the sides of the snout so that dirt cannot clog them. Furthermore, their shovel-like front paws are very sensitive to touch, and this also helps them sense nearby prey.
These tiny creatures have a very high metabolism. They must eat almost constantly in order to live and thrive. In fact, in the course of a day a mole consumes between sixty and ninety percent of its body weight in insects, spiders, slugs, earthworms and grubs. Eastern moles weigh a little under two ounces. European moles weigh about three ounces.
In its search for edible creatures, a mole may dig a hundred feet of tunnel in a day. In fact, if the animal were a human miner weighing in at 12-stone, it would move 12 tons of earth on its own (unassisted by digging equipment) daily.
All-in-all, moles are extremely beneficial to the yard and garden. They make quick work of grubs, which grow up to be June bugs, Japanese beetles and Scarab beetles. They eat millipedes, centipedes and all manner of spiders (both venomous and non-venomous). They are one of the few creatures that eat snails and slugs.
Moles eat these pests for energy and convert them into natural fertiliser, which they deposit handily at root level to benefit grass and other plants. They dig tunnels that help keep your soil loose and aerated. All of these are good reasons to welcome moles into your garden. They are beneficial wildlife.
Additionally, having a good mole population in your yard attracts other beneficial wildlife, such as foxes, which also keep your rodent population in check. Welcoming these natural predators into your yard will help you keep actual pests, such as voles, rats, mice, chipmunks and rabbits under control while preventing mole overpopulation.
What If I Don’t Like Moles?
If you would prefer to have a lawn and garden free of natural life, then you will want to turn toward aggressive measures to rid your space of both pests and beneficial wildlife.
Understand that this is a fairly futile pursuit. In nature, life always strives to survive, and you will never rid your area entirely of animals you consider to be pests. You are far more likely to have success working with nature and striving for balance than working against it.
Nonetheless, if you must attempt to rid your space of moles, some common methods include:
- Mole traps placed in active tunnels. You can determine whether or not a tunnel is in active use by flattening tunnels one day and checking to see which have been restored the next day.
- Repellents such as sharp objects (e.g. broken glass, thorny stems and branches) can be placed in active tunnels.
- Chemical repellents and poisons may be used, but these can have many unwanted, negative effects and present
danger to pets and unintended wildlife targets.
- Devices that cause vibration in the earth or emit high pitched noise may also deter moles by disrupting their ability to sense and hear prey.
If you kill moles, you are sure to see a surge in damages caused by the insects they eat. Furthermore, more moles will appear in ensuing seasons. You will never be completely rid of them, and there‘s really no reason why you should strive to do so. When you strike an ecological balance in your lawn and garden, you are sure to find your maintenance tasks easier and more enjoyable.