Mysterious garden moles get a bad press, but they just like to dig dirt, to find earthworms. Many humans do things a lot worse. How much do you know about moles? They are not blind (they just have poor eyesight). Why do they leave mounds of earth? And how can you live peacefully with them? Let’s meet a mole!
The word ‘mole’ comes from the Middle English for ‘mouldwarp’, which means ‘earth-thrower’. And that’s just what moles do. They have spade-like paws that do a kind of ‘breast stroke’ underground, ploughing through earth on a never-ending quest to find earthworms, which they take down to their den, to keep for later snacking. Black and furry, these tiny creatures can dig up to 18 feet of earth a day, and eat their own body weight daily in worms, slugs & insects.
They are solitary creatures who don’t even like each other much (they only come together to mate). They are nothing like the character of Mole in The Wind in the Willows, who lived in a riverside home with his friend Ratty. They don’t hibernate, but rather work in 4-hour shifts (digging and sleeping) most of the day and night. Their natural predators are cats, dogs, owls, buzzards and stoats.
Love wildlife? You can’t love pretty butterflies but ignore or harm moles, just because they don’t fit in with your manicured lawn. Take a leaf from garden writer Alys Fowler, who says ‘If I am to love owls, I must learn to live with rats’.
How to Humanely Deter Moles
- Moles like modern lawns with soft earth, so grow an organic lawn (try not to water it too much, as it makes soft soil that attracts moles). So never use slug pellets (toxic to wildlife and pets). Trimming shady foliage also helps to dry out the soil. Molehills actually make good potting compost. Brush over hills to level them, to avoid terriers trying to dig down. Moles will never harm (they may bite if disturbed: just wash hands and use antibiotic cream).
- Use safe humane slug/snail deterrents to avoid toxic chemicals (moles eat slugs, so keep nature in balance in an organic garden).
- Regular gardener footprints help (they don’t like noise, though sonic devices have mixed reviews). They also don’t like the scent of marigolds, daffodils or alliums (onions, garlic, chives, scallions, leeks). Avoid these toxic plants near pets.
- ‘Humane traps’ are not very effective, as moles can slowly die if not checked. Read Living with Urban Wildlife for alternative ideas.
- If you are a farmer worried about bacteria from mole hills, one permaculture gardener rotates where he feeds his sheep. Homeopathy at Wellie Level runs courses for farmers to enhance natural resistance.
- Marc Hamer worked as a mole-catcher for years. But one day in a muddy field (holding ‘something blue and black’), he turned the worm and and vowed never to catch a mole again. He says modern gardeners make things worse with manicured lawns, he suggests leaving unused areas of the garden to grow a wildflower meadow (not near pets, as some wildflowers are toxic to them)..
Little Mole’s Wish has been compared to Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman. This is a timeless story of the friendship between a lonely little mole and snowball that he moulds into a bear, that comes to life. He takes his new friend on the bus, but little does he know that when the weather warms, the snowball will disappear.