What to do about these moles in my yard part II

Published 4:56 pm Wednesday, January 11, 2023

In the last installment of this discussion from New Year’s Day, we talked about moles being beneficial to our lawn systems and about management through taking away their food source. I wanted to revisit this discussion because I realized I talked about the benefits and managing the issue but I never got to the point of discussing control options. I went to some effort on this one because there is so much information out there that is contradicting. I wanted to separate fact from fiction.

So, we covered the beneficial ecosystem and soil services moles provide and we went into what to use to manage their food source. Here, I want to talk about some of the fact and fiction. When you do an internet search for mole control, you will see all kinds of products from sonic devices to traps even castor beans. Do any of these really work?

In Extension, we remain relevant through giving non-biased, university research-based information. In doing this, we can save you a whole lot of time and money and in some cases even keep you safe. The first piece of fiction is the sonic and electromagnetic devices that are marketed for rodents and moles. The claim is that devices emitting electromagnetic or sonic waves deter moles from your property. The next piece of fiction, castor beans, which are toxic to humans, repel and/or kill moles. Lastly, there is the “mole plant” or caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris). This is a really pungent plant in which the claim is that it will repel moles from coming into your yard. Of course, this plant is known to be toxic and possibly cause death in people, pets, and livestock if ingested! In addition to possible death, it can cause redness, swelling, and blisters on the skin. The key here is that moles are carnivores, they don’t eat plants.

All of these claims are fiction. While they may work in some way, there is no know research on any of these methods that has substantiated their effectiveness. The advertisement will say something to the effect of “studies have shown…” but, it is funny, they never show or mention what studies and there is almost never a citation or reference to back the claims. This is especially concerning in this age where we hear the cliché, “Trust the science!”

The problem with claims like these is that this isn’t real science. In the real science world, there are experiments done that are then written up and sent to be peer reviewed. The experiment must also be replicated. Then, the results of the experiments are scrutinized and debated among peers from within your scientific discipline before being published. If there isn’t a study or scientific article referenced to back up the claim, then it most likely isn’t good information! Okay, now I can climb down off my soapbox and tell you what works.

N.C. State University has found, through research, that trapping remains the most effective way to remove moles from an area. Scissor type traps have been found to be the most effective but that doesn’t mean other types will not work. If you are going to trap the moles yourself, you will need to acquire a depredation permit from a Wildlife Resources Officer or Wildlife Control Agent in your area. These folks can be found by visiting the Wildlife Resource Commission’s webpage at ncwildlife.org. Be prepared, this can be a very daunting task that requires continued diligence to be effective. The main tunnels must be found through scouting the area. Then, traps are set and must be reset every 3-5 days to catch the moles. If you don’t have anything else to do and really want to do a mole version remake of the movie “Caddyshack,” be my guest! If you don’t feel up to the task, remember, Wildlife Control Agents can also be hired to trap the moles for you.

In 2015, the NC State Legislature listed the Eastern mole and the hairy-tailed mole as pest species under GS 113-200.2. This means that homeowners can use unrestricted pesticides labeled for home use on moles to poison them. Using the pesticides does not require a depredation permit but, much like trapping, this can be a very difficult task. The main or active tunnels must be found and then the bait placed in the tunnel with very minimal disturbance. Then there is always the chance for off-target species such as dogs and cats to be poisoned. Please be careful with any pesticides and make certain to read the label in its entirety, the label is the law! It is worth mentioning that NC State University does recognize this as a control method but has shown the pesticide worms and grubs to be much less effective than trapping.

If you are having trouble with growing in your home landscape, call the Extension office at (252)946-0111 or email me at gene_fox@ncsu.edu. If you have a plant that you are unable to identify or would like to know more about the plants in your landscape, let’s talk. Like an old family doctor, I do house calls if we can’t figure out your problem! By the way, here is the main publication I used for this article, Brandenburg, Rick. 2017. “Moles in Turf.” Moles in Turf | NC State Extension Publications. Retrieved January 10, 2023 (https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/moles-in-turf).