Moles are on the move!

Wildside: Public enemy number one after all the wet weather - the mole.

Wildside: Public enemy number one after all the wet weather - the mole.

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I wonder if you have noticed, as Jean Guest of Cudworth near Barnsley has, how the mole population has boomed over the last year or so, writes Ian Rotherham.

It seems that the record-breaking wet weather has brought the moles out in great numbers. You can see the molehills springing up all over the place from roadside verges to meadows and pastures, and especially it seems in people’s gardens. Now it does appear that people are quite fond of moles but ‘out in the countryside’ and not on their back doorstep. Tidy minded gardeners view the mole as enemy number 1. With this in mind, it is worthwhile considering why wet weather and moles go together so well. Torrential downpours raise the immediate water table near the surface and push earthworms up to the top of the soil. The earthworms, which are rich in protein, are the mole’s main food and so they follow to gorge on the glut. Wet soil is also easier to burrow though and so the moles become more active too, finding it easier to get around, to find a mate and breed, and of course to hunt. This all combines to mean that we have a lot more moles about. In addition, in wet weather the moles go further afield and spread out form their usual habitat in woods, hedgerows, and pastures, and into your garden and onto your lawn. The way our weather is going, then you can expect more of the same in the years to come. Moles do not like long droughts when the soil is hard and compacted and the earthworms struggle, but as for floods, bring them on – as the mole is an excellent swimmer.

Control is difficult and there are specialist products available such as mole traps. There is a helpful page of hints on how to control moles on http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Rid-of-Moles-in-Your-Lawn. My reading is that some of these methods involve killing the poor beasts and you might just catch them live and dispose a distance away in the local woods. The site does seem to advocate bludgeoning with a hammer or blasting with a 12-bore, but then this is a USA guidance site! You can mix a liquid of cayenne pepper, soapy water and castor oil and sprinkle on the lawn or wherever the mole tunnels are. It apparently makes the moles’ skin itch and this drives them away. Alternatively, they suggest putting a hosepipe into the burrow and flooding them out. I have a different suggestion, which amounts to copying hundreds of tiny photographs of George Osborne and attaching them to garden labels. Place these across your lawn or other infested places and that should drive the moles away. Then no, I forgot moles are nearly blind. The solution may be something sonic but I will return to this theme later.

* Professor Ian D. Rotherham is a researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues.

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