WHAT DOESN'T WORK
Although trapping is endorsed as the solution to mole infestation by all knowledgeable sources, your average mole-crossed homeowner only rarely embraces this advice. Instead, people typically seek the consul of others who are equally ill-informed about moles and have backyards that resemble World War I battlefields. The result of these doomed collaborations is the serial implementation of increasingly desperate control measures. Equally useless in stopping moles, these "remedies" vary from the misguided to the comical and are frequently downright dangerous.
The list of alternative control techniques below is certainly not exhaustive, and each measure boasts many proud (and often belligerent) proponents who are forever doomed to wallow in yards full of molehills. By the way, if you begin to get ideas from this list, you are really missing the point!
Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum
Everyone knows to plant Juicy Fruit in the earth when molehills first appear. The question is, who thought up this ridiculous mole antidote? We're betting it was someone in marketing at Wrigley's who is truly deserving of promotion for his/her stroke of genius. Although Juicy Fruit is undeniably terrific (hello, Wrigley's lawyers), it is also certain that no mole has ever died from an intestinal blockage of bubble gum. Even if they wanted to eat it (and why would they?), moles have small, pointy teeth and therefore lack the proper dentition to chew gum, so they cannot possibly ingest it!
We once encountered a Juicy Fruit proponent who insisted up and down that it took 176 sticks to terminally obstruct the bowels of the last mole that entered his yard. People, please ! Just because you have moles in your yard does not mean that you have to surrender your good sense. The only way that you will kill a mole with 176 sticks of Juicy Fruit is to sculpt the chewed gum into the shape of a bowling pin, bake it until it becomes nearly as hard, and then use it to club the life clean out of the next unsuspecting mole you encounter. As Martha Stewart would say, it's a good thing!
Grub Controls (and other insecticides)
Pesticide manufacturers and applicators have done an incredible job of marketing their poisons as the remedy to mole infestation. Their logic is seductive -- cut off the moles' food supply and they will leave. The problem is that the mole's primary food source is the earthworm, so the elimination of white grubs from your lawn will not starve them away!
Castor Bean/Oil Concoctions
The recent castor oil fad is driven by a highly questionable study conducted at Michigan State University by an entomologist (a bug, not mole, scientist). The results of this study have never been replicated in clinical trials, and countless real world attempts (read: application by actual mole-plagued homeowners) overwhelming indicate that this junk simply does not repel moles .
However, the Michigan State endorsement of castor oil potions certainly did not escape the attention of those eager to make a quick buck peddling this snake oil, and many manufacturers are now marketing it with this endorsement (watch out--some sly manufacturers list the active ingredient as Ricinus communis , the scientific name for the plant which bears the castor bean!).
If you insist on trying out a castor oil potion on your moles, buy the ingredients from the supermarket and mix it yourself. The recipe calls for 1 part castor oil combined with 1 part liquid detergent and application with a hose-end sprayer. Don't worry if you do not get the formula just right because it will not rid your yard of moles anyway (but making it yourself will save you about ten bucks!).
The Pitchfork/Shovel Method
Moles, like most other animals, are sensitive to stabbing and/or concussion. While it is certainly possible to locate and eliminate them by scrutinizing your yard for signs of movement and then attacking swiftly, it is also a thorough waste of time. Mole watches are typically conducted by retired men whose dedication to this endeavor can be downright frightening (especially to young children). However, in many mole-infested neighborhoods, their prowess as mole hunters garners a surprising amount of respect.
At risk of further trivializing the deep cultural significance of the mole hunt, perhaps we could channel all of the man-hours frittered away in this pursuit into harnessing an alternative energy source. Just a thought.
This is a thankfully rare tactic designed to deliver heart-stopping electrical shocks to moles and limitless glee to exclusively male practitioners. The "apparatus" consists of a stripped extension cord that is delicately positioned on either side of a mole run and then connected to an exterior outlet. In theory, when the mole traverses his booby-trapped tunnel, its chunky body closes the circuit and fizzles delightfully.
Warning!!! Meteorologists and other unusually observant people have noted that dew often settles on the ground in the morning and evening, and sometimes it even rains. Since water usually does its best to conduct electricity, you literally risk zapping the pee out of yourself with this technique.
We are collecting signatures to proclaim mole tunnel squashing the new national pastime. Let's face it -- nobody is half as concerned about baseball as they are about the mole runs in their backyard. Oh, it also doesn't work (but you already knew that).
Although moles are not exactly big game, they can be bagged with shotguns or .22 rifles. In some neighborhoods (suburban, mind you), gunshots directed at moles are so common on summer evenings that they no longer arouse the concern of the neighbors, and are instead greeted with applause. With the vast number of people engaged in this particular pursuit (which always involves beer), we fully expect to one day enter a home with a mole mount proudly displayed over the fireplace.
The historical limitation of dispatching moles with gunpowder is that someone needed to be around to pull the trigger. Enter Claude Denninger and Louis Moutton, two of the mole-hatin'est Frenchmen ever to pick up the chase. It would seem that their "explosive mole trap" which was granted US patent number 4,213,265 in 1980, is based entirely on the premise that a firearm is actually quite unnecessary because what really kills moles is the detonating cartridge .
The pair noted in the original patent application that their design represented an improvement over previous "anti-mole pistols" (presumably including Claude's own "pyrotechnical mole trap" patented in 1978), citing that "the main disadvantage of this trap is that it uses as its explosive charge a detonating charge of which the explosion is highly dangerous to the user and to domestic animals and which results in mutilation of the mole." No kidding.
The problem with the baits commonly available is that the delivery system is grain based. Grain is not a part of their natural diet and moles lack the dentition to gnaw hard seeds the way a mouse or gopher can, so these poisons are completely ineffective. The analogy that we use for people is that no matter how many cinder blocks we poison, we will never kill a human because it is not a part of our diet and we cannot physically ingest it anyway!
One enormous red flag of many mole baits is that the manufacturers tout their effectiveness on both gophers and moles. Although these animals are both small, furry, and burrow underground, their diets are not similar in the least. Gophers are herbivores which feed on plant material. Moles, on the other hand, are carnivores which dine exclusively on live food.
Recently a new type of gelled poison has emerged on the mole control scene. In spite of our best efforts, we have so far been unable to get even a single captive mole to accept this bait. Remember, moles eat live soil invertebrates, not processed jelly!
We have been privy to several intriguing reports of trained, mole-hunting ferrets. One person we encountered claimed certain knowledge of an individual who is hired by golf courses nationwide to solve their mole problems with two of these killer beasties. While actual documentation of this approach has remained elusive, we can imagine some serious drawbacks to co-habitating with bloodthirsty weasels.
If you are the owner of a mole-attacking ferret, please contact us to arrange a demonstration at your convenience at the location of your choice (continental US only, please).
Many otherwise sane people have attempt to "stink" a mole out of its home with mothballs, hot sauce, Clorox, creosote, rotten fish, and yes, even urine. Before you begin peeing on your front lawn every time nature calls, please remember your dignity, public exposure laws, and the simple fact that it will not influence the activities of your subterranean mammals.
If chemicals are more your speed and you are willing to pour enough bleach or ammonia into the ground to poison an entire watershed, you might be able to drive a few moles away. However, you will definitely kill your lawn in the process.
There are multiple drawbacks to this approach. First, the tunnel systems of moles are enormously complex (frequently spanning more than an acre), so the gas typically does not even reach them. Next, the soil absorbs gasses relatively quickly, further compromising effectiveness. Also, some researchers have reported that moles are able to wall off portions of their tunnel system to escape an introduced gas. Finally, moles are able to fix oxygen at extremely low partial pressures and can breath easily in conditions which would suffocate other mammals (including humans).
While most people use smoke bombs or road flares in their attempts to gas moles, some intrepid individuals jerry-rig garden hoses to cars or lawn tractors to pump exhaust down the burrows. Beware! We have an otherwise intelligent client who gas-locked the engine of his brand new John Deere riding lawnmower in this pursuit. Adding insult to injury, his wife would not let him buy another one and then forced him to hire our service. He has remained a terrific, if meek, customer ever since!
A relatively small number of very lucky people have been able to flush a mole out of its tunnel with a garden hose long enough to bonk it over the head (a shovel is generally the blunt instrument of choice). However, the limitations of flooding are similar to those of gassing, and so it is too unreliable to cure even mild infestations.
Amazingly, a customer reported that his neighbor emptied an entire 20 foot diameter and four foot deep above ground swimming pool into a tunnel system to drown his moles, yet never saw a drop of water come to the lawn's surface! Although we could not confirm this tale (the neighbors do not get along on account of the moles, you see), we have been to quite a few properties which more closely resembled rice paddies than actual lawns. Invariably, the moles were still around.
Mole Repelling Flora
There are several plants which are said to repel moles, although none are actually effective. However, the species most often recommended for warding off moles tend to be toxic to other mammals, including humans. Notable among these are the castor bean plant ( Ricinus communis ) and the mole plant or gopher purge ( Euphorbia lathyris ). So, if your aim is to rid your yard of pets and small children instead of moles, then maybe you should include them in your landscaping.
Other Animal Traps
Just use mole traps to catch moles, okay? And make sure they are effective ones.
There are few sights on this earth more amusing than a misguided arms race between two neighbors equally bent on driving a mole "over into his yard" by massing dozens of Sonic Mole Chasing Poles on each side of the property line. Apparently, some discount stores sell these in bulk (just don't tell the Joneses next door).
However, we'll admit it. These were a great idea to try. Unfortunately, they are completely useless, unless of course your goal is not to repel moles, but to stimulate the economy. Then they work great (especially at $49.99 a pop). Do your part! Make it a point to buy domestically manufactured units to help reduce the national trade deficit.
Igniting gasoline poured down mole tunnels is a proud tradition of imbeciles everywhere. However, we recently met a practitioner who took this tactic to the next level. After flooding the runs with multiple gallons of gas, he proceeded to pump oxygen into the burrows for the next several hours. When he finally lit it, he boasted that flames flared out in his neighbor's yard some 300 feet away! In a near head-on collision with the process of natural selection, this sharp tack would surely have ignited himself had the moles been tunneling in the area differently.
Dogs and Cats
Some breeds of dogs are decent molers (especially some terriers), but cats are generally more effective. However, if you are waiting for your pet to cure your mole problem, get used to your mole problem. By the way, we are not the least bit interested in hiring your cat for our service, so everyone please stop offering !
On a related note, sprinkling used kitty litter around your home is as useless at deterring moles as it is offensive to your guests ( nobody likes eau de cat pee).
Crushed Glass, Rose Thorns, and Razor Blades
These remedies are based on the mistaken notion that moles are hemophiliacs and will bleed to death from the slightest cut. Unfortunately, this is definitely not the case.
Access to a property can be barred to eastern mole species by sinking galvanized sheet metal to a depth of two feet around the entire perimeter. A safe depth for west coast species is closer to five feet, but in all cases the metal must extend above the ground as well to exclude moles dispersing overland. If this does not seem an entirely rational idea to you, congratulations! You might still have your sanity.