Some folks think moles are cute. And, well, they kind of are with their squinty little eyes, oversized paws, and long snouts. But for others, especially homeowners in the Lowcountry, they're terrible, tiny pests capable of wreaking havoc on a lawn.
Horticulturist Bill Lamson-Scribner of Possum's Landscape and Pest Control Supply, has been telling local residents how to get rid of moles for years. "Moles are pretty small — not much bigger than my thumb — but they can cause an awful lot of trouble," Lamson-Scribner says.
A strict insectivore, moles are unlike other mammal pests like mice or gophers, which are omnivorous. They eat mostly grubs, earthworms, and insects below the soil surface. When they enter a yard and start searching for food, they create raised mounds and tunnels on the surface.
"They say one mole usually occupies around an acre, but a mole doesn't know your property line from your neighbor's," Lamson-Scribner says. "You might have five overlapping in one yard. Generally, one mole can do a lot. They can tunnel a lot of ground very quickly."
Soft-spoken and wise in his trade, Lamson-Scribner often touches on the issue in his informative weekly column Horticulture Hotline in The Moultrie News. He also offers mole guidance on The Garden Clinic, a radio show he co-hosts with lawn expert Paul Mulkey on 1250 AM WTMA from 12-1 p.m. on Saturdays.
Lamson-Scribner says moles can be voracious eaters and can consume more than 80 percent of their body weight on a daily basis. That's why you have to go after their food source, too. "Moles usually have a main tunnel that's fairly straight and usually bordering a sidewalk, roadway, or other barrier," he says. "Then they feed off of that. They mark their feeding spots with their scent to avoid areas where they've already been."
Mole activity increases dramatically during the cooler months, and they tend to prefer the loose, sandy soil of many Lowcountry yards. In dealing with a mole problem, Lamson-Scribner prefers what he calls a three-prong approach: try to kill the mole with bait, try to eliminate its food source with insecticides, and create a perimeter with repellents.
"If you simply try to get rid of its food source first, moles could become really active and start tearing up your lawn looking for food," he says. "When you target their food source, which is basically earthworms, grubs, crickets, and other insects, you do have to use chemicals. When applied properly, those chemicals aren't bad for pets or people.
"Mole Patrol and Talpirid are low-grade poison baits where you put three to five little pellets in a hole at a time," Lamson-Scribner adds. "I prefer Mole Patrol. A cat or a small dog would have to eat pound of these things to get sick from it."
Mole traps are another option, but they require more effort, skill, and patience — and it can be as grisly as dealing with rat or mice traps. There's a risk in having traps in a yard, too. Small outdoor pets or children could possibly hurt themselves if they came in contact with a mole trap.
"Mole traps are good, and some almost look medieval, with prongs and springs. A kid who's curious could hurt himself in a trap, so we also recommend the repellents. You just have to be sure to give the mole a way out," Lamson-Scribner says.
Possum's sells many granular and liquid repellents, like Mole Repellent, Holy Moly, and Mole Stopper, which work well as perimeter treatments to prevent more mole infestations. "You start with where the moles are and then come the next day and put it behind the mole," he says. "You start near your house and scoot the mole out. If you put it all around, it could be stuck in there."
Lamson-Scribner uses insecticides manufactured by Sevn to wipe out the moles' food source. He says that Sevn is one of the most effective insecticides on the market.
For an average suburban lawn, Lamson-Scribner estimates it could cost between $60-$80 for all of the basic supplies needed to combat a typical local mole problem. "I tend to think everything is overpriced these days," he says, "but it's usually worth writing the check for these things to get to job done."