Common throughout Britain though rarely seen, moles (Talpa europaea) spend most of their lives in a series of tunnels, only the familiar molehills above ground giving them away. Arriving from almost thin air you wake up one morning to mole hills. It only takes a couple of days to turn your perfect lawn into a scene from the “battle of the Somme”. The damage that moles do is incidental as they burrow in search of insect larvae, slugs and Earthworms and lawns are an ideal hunting ground. The worms are near to the surface and the network of grass roots supports extensive tunneling. Establishing a centre the mole or moles will work out digging several feeder tunnels and once the basic network has been formed they sit back and wait. With an excellent sense of smell and hearing they can detect a worm up to 5 metres away. As the worms work through the soil they drop into the moles tunnel and become another tasty meal.
Moles are highly territorial creatures – solitary outside of the breeding season – and a single individual’s network of tunnels sometimes covers as much as four acres. This inevitably means that, rather like the human housing market, competition for prime locations is strong; several young are born each spring, leaving home within a couple of months of birth to establish their own territories. Ridding yourself of one resident mole is no guarantee that another will not appear to take its place.
Various approaches have been tried over the years to repel moles, with varying degrees of success. Traditional methods include putting prickly vegetation – holly leaves or bramble cuttings, for example – or moth balls, creosote or any one of a number of other strong smelling substances within the tunnels. Another method involves part-burying a number of bottles, so that when the wind blows over their tops, the noise below ground upsets the moles and they will move away to somewhere more peaceful. A variation on this theme uses the familiar toy windmill. Sticking a few of these, it is said, into the ground – or in the necks of buried bottles – might send Mr Mole packing. Trapping is often the best method for young inexperienced moles. The normal type of trap has a scissors action which to be honest is somewhat barbaric. Another method often used involves finding the run then using a special mole smoke to fumigate it but although on the whole this is an effective method, you are however limited to how far the poisonous smoke will travel and also the moles can dig there way out of trouble. The smokes contain sulphur and can only be used when the weather is warm as in cold damp weather the smoke will not travel in the runs.
Sometimes it may be worth considering whether the molehills can simply be tolerated.