Moles eating plants - Knowledgebase Question

Coudersport, PA
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Question by bcpowers
February 20, 1999
What can I do to get the moles out of my yard? They are eating my bulbs and they ate my bleeding heart bush.

Answer from NGA
February 20, 1999
There is a chance that an animal other than a mole is causing the problem, perhaps voles or other rodents. But if it's truly moles, they are damaging the plants on their way to finding their real food -- insects. And if it's any consolation, you've got pretty nice soil, with lots of organic matter and beneficial insects. Moles know where the best meals are! There are many ways to try to get rid of moles, from deterrents to lethal traps.

Moles feed on grubs and earthworms living in your lawn or garden. The damage they do is to plant roots while they are tunneling. Your first consideration should be to control the grub population in your lawn (have you considered beneficial nematodes or milky spore?) and determine how serious a problem the moles are. (Some gardeners consider moles beneficial because they are such good insectivores.) If you have a major problem with them, your first task in treating moles is to determine which of their runways are active.

Moles make a whole network of tunnels when they take up residence in a yard. Some tunnels lead to nesting areas, some to "toilet facilities", and some lead nowhere at all. Take a stiff and slender metal rod (even an old coathanger will work), and begin probing the soil. When the wire gives, you've found a tunnel. Mark the area and probe some more. You'll eventually be able to tell the length and direction of the tunnels and can figure out which are main runs and which areshort runs.

Some methods of treatment are flushing with water (best done in the spring), or protecting your garden by burying a fencing of small mesh, tightly woven hardware cloth, or a low cement wall. Moles hate the smell of castor oil beans, and Gardener's Supply Catalog has a repellent out with castor oil as an ingredient that I have heard good reviews about. You can reach them at 1-800-863-1700 or visit their website at

If you decide to use traps, you can either live trap (and release the pests far away from any neighbor!) or use a lethal trap -- scissors-type traps work most efficiently. Dig the soil out of a small section of the main run and place the trap across the tunnel. Carefully cover with sod or soil to exclude any light and then just wait. If you've placed your trap in an active main run, you'll catch a mole. Continue to set the trap until you don't catch any more moles.

In the meantime, take solace in the fact that you've got really great soil!

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