How to Get Rid of and Deter Moles
Quick answer - use
Juicy Fruit chewing
gum - see below for details!
The battle between moles and gardeners is a long running one. Moles can spoil lawns and their runs can undermine plants in borders, they can be dangerous to people and animals by causing a stumble or fall when a foot is placed above a tunnel and unexpectedly sinks.
Moles spend most of their life underground and a single family can occupy up to half an acre of land. Burrowing activity is at a peak in the spring while the parents find food for the new litter of baby moles (called pups). The chances are that if you have moles, you will never actually see any of them face to face - just the evidence of their presence.
Moles are carnivores and feed on worms and grubs that they find in the soil, they don't feed on plants and damage them only coincidentally as they burrow past.
Traditionally moles were removed from a site by a mole catcher in a battle of wits whereby he inserted traps into runs in the evening and returned the next day to see how many he had caught. This is still an option for gardeners though many people find it distasteful as the mole is killed.
My Battle with Moles
First of all, don't let it get this bad! let my experience be a warning and act when the first molehill/s arrives.
The first molehill arrived in a border late autumn, we'd had them before occasionally and so ignored it, a few more followed in the next week or two. Then they found the lawn and stepped up the pace of tunnel and hill building to a new level.
Initially I'd pound the hills down with a fence post and scrape them flat. Eventually though we were getting new hills almost every day and they started to merge together forming large areas where the grass was killed and turning the lawn into a scale model of the Somme.
The area was also becoming quite dangerous as the tunnels were invisible from above and we'd often stand on one and stumble, when my wife fell following a stumble we decided to act especially as they were still making hills and tunnels and my flattening attempts were having no effect at all.
Method 1 - Traps
I bought 3 mole traps that are like upside down double mouse-traps that you place by cutting the roof of a tunnel out and putting the trap in. They were each placed and then moved another 2 times so that was 9 set traps overall. 6 of these placing's were ignored, the traps didn't go off and there was no indication of moles around them. The other 3 were very effectively disabled by the moles by them stuffing soil into the trap by digging a new hill alongside. The trap would be sticking out of the ground at up to 45 degrees, still set but untriggered and as I said stuffed solid with soil which made them harmless. I didn't catch any moles.
Method 2 - Juicy Fruit - smell attack
Moles have a very sensitive sense of smell and live in underground enclosed tunnels, this makes them susceptible to being stunk out. I remembered some years ago reading about using various smelly things placed in the tunnel to get rid of moles. Chanel no.5, paraffin and Juicy Fruit chewing gum were three things I recalled, I was never convinced by the expensive perfume who would actually try it? paraffin seemed messy and might contaminate the soil so I thought I'd give the Juicy Fruit a go.
I didn't find any in local shops and ended up getting it online where it was also cheaper in bulk packs here. There are many sellers, go for the cheapest as it's all the same product, I bought 14 packs of 7 sticks each. It turned out to be ideal:
1 - It is clean and easy to use.
2 - It works!
I was very sceptical at first but needed to try something. The day it arrived there had been another 5 (yes 5!) hills turn up over night which I think actually helped me as it showed me where to target the tunnels.
I placed the chewing gum along the mole tunnels, not the hills as the gum would be buried in the soil and the smell largely neutralised.
It turned out I could find the tunnels very easily with my feet while wearing trainers, I walked in little steps around a recent hill until I felt the ground giving way which signified a tunnel. Using a knife with a broad blade about 6" long by 1" wide, (15 x 2.5cm) I stabbed into the soil through the tunnel roof and into the void, you can feel it quite easily, wiggle the knife from side to side to make a rectangular hole.
I tore each piece of chewing gum into two as it seemed about the right size and posted it through the slit I'd just made into the tunnel so it sat at the bottom. I then plugged the hole with some soil to keep the smell in.
I'd forgotten how smelly Juicy Fruit was as it was decades since I'd last had any, when my fingers were a bit moist from the soil it really seemed to release the odour and I could imagine it filling the tunnel. This first time I used 3 packs x 7 sticks per pack with each ripped in two so I placed 42 pieces mostly around the tunnels near the most recent hills, it's pretty quick to do.
Then I waited while realistically not expecting it to have any effect at all or maybe they might just leave coincidentally which is how the story may have got started in the first place. There was no apparent activity for the next two days but on the third day there were two new small hills that appeared. Another 2-3 packs of gum were deployed near the new hills and further afield wherever I felt any tunnels with my feet.
Nothing for a week, then one very small disturbance - more chewing gum, about another week later and another small disturbance - more chewing gum. Then nothing for two months and that's where I am now at the end of March which is the most active burrowing time.
I went from an average of least a new hill every day to nothing very rapidly after using juicy fruit to stink out the tunnels, with immediate results after the first day.
If you look online you will find people claiming the moles eat the gum and somehow die though there is zero evidence that it is how it works, you will also get people who are strongly of the opinion that this method doesn't work at all, like the first group they seem to be repeating what they have read and have no personal experience.
Maybe luck was involved too but the Juicy Fruit definitely worked for me and I still have 7 packs left for if they come back again, though I suspect the smell will weaken with time so I'll probably need some fresh supplies.
Other chemical or strongly odouriferous deterrents that can be put down the mole run:
- Chili powder
- Smoke cartridges
- Chanel No.5
- Mole repellants - commercial sonic and chemical.
- Castor oil can also be used on the ground. Mix up a spray of 3 parts castor oil to 1 part washing up liquid, use 4 tablespoons of this concoction in a gallon of water, and soak the tunnels and the entrances.
Picture credit - European mole - courtesy, Zoph - published under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2