Warm and wet weather conditions have led to reports of an increase in mole activity, leaving gardeners with ruined lawns and meadows.
The mole which inhabits the British Isles is the European Mole, (Talpa Europea). Up here in the north it is often referred to as a Mowdie, a term which is Scottish in origin. A Mole hill is locally known as a Mouwdiewap.
The black, velvet jacketed chap referred to in Wind in the Willows makes everybody think that all moles are black, but they can vary in colour from black to silver grey.
Their little short tail, face, ears and chin are covered in lots of sensory hairs which help them feel their way around underground and to detect food.
Moles are not blind as many people think, but have very small eyes which are completely hidden under the fur. Their vision is quite useless though, only allowing them to distinguish between light and dark. However, their acute hearing and well developed sense of smell makes up for the lack of vision.
Damage to lawns and gardens
A mole generally moves around underground using a series of tunnels, which it can dig at an amazing rate. Size for size, they can shift as much earth as a JCB excavator in a day.
Breeding tunnels can be quite deep but it is the shallow, surface tunnels which cause the gardener so much anxiety. Passing under roots of plants, they cause the earth to give way underneath and the plant roots are disturbed so that they cannot take up water and nutrients.
A well manicured lawn can very quickly be turned into something resembling a battle field as the tunneling moles throw up mounds of earth onto the grass surface.
Needless to say there are as many old wives tales about how to get rid of moles as there are moles and they generally don’t work, or do not work for long.
Stuffing garlic down into the holes, electronic and ultrasonic scarers, chewing gum, flooding, human urine and smoke are just a few, but the most popular myth is that moles are frightened off by vibration in the ground, so people go around sticking toy windmills along the tunnel paths.
This may work if you only have one mole but is unlikely to succeed for a greater number. Guess they must have a real big problem in Ulverston!
Joking aside… the moles do get used to the vibration and will generally return.
Whilst most gardener’s are fairly tolerant and a few mole hills generally won’t cause anxiety, there are occasions where they can become a serious problem, ruining flower beds, vegetable patches and lawns. The only sure fire way of eradicating them is by trapping.
Professional mole catchers are keen to stress that humane traps are often anything but. A trap can be triggered in as little as 10 – 20 minutes of being set, so if the owner does not return for two or three days, or even forgets where they set them, the poor little things suffer a slow, lingering death.
Another frustration is the old myth that moles are solitary creatures and if a mole is caught, it will be the end of the problem. They are indeed very territorial but, if a mole dies or moves away, another mole will soon make use of it’s residence and tunnels. So. if your garden backs onto fields and meadows, there may be a number of moles in the area.
RHS – Information and advice on how to deal with moles in the garden