QUESTION: Even though it has been cold, moles are tearing up my yard. Last year, they destroyed the St. Augustine lawn. I have heard that putting dog hair into the moles' burrows will run them off, but I have not tried it. I have used hot-pepper sauce and soap, but the moles just move to another spot. C.T., Springtown
ANSWER: Home remedies sometimes work with these insect-eating mammals. They tunnel to find earthworms, grub worms and insect larvae to eat. Moles can be controlled to some degree with hot-pepper and castor-oil products or mixtures of these ingredients. Injecting the materials into the ground in the problem areas is more effective than spraying the surface. Planting castor beans around the perimeter of the yard or garden can help, too.
A listener called in with the tip of connecting the mower exhaust to a hose and gasing the little beasts. Might work, not sure about soil contamination. Another reported that her beagle keeps the place free of moles. I like that solution better.
Tip from Ed Boomhower Vancouver, Washington
For years, I have rather successfully used water and my Belgian Malinois to search out and destroy moles. At first, I trained her to seek and destroy, but that was a mistake; turning a 6 oz. mole digging problem for a 68 pound dog digging problem. I re-trained her to snatch moles when they surface in the lawn area only - and do her search-and-destroy in the rest of the acreage.
My Belgian Malinois, Anka gets her prey after water fills the runway, and the nefarious mole has but one way to go...permanently.
Anka gets a mole.
Remove any sprayer from your hose. With your water turned on fully, firmly and continuously stick the end of the hose into the center of the mound until you reach the mole's runway. Be ready to bend/kink your hose to slow or stop the flow.
Moles install 'blockages' within sections of runways, but I don't know why. I DO know it's true, because when the water starts to back up into the original hole opening, it often breaks away the dirt somewhere in the runway, allowing the water to continue flowing into further denizens.
This is a good thing, even if it only means you're making more work for the mole.
If you find that the water is backing up out of the hole, kink your hose to stop the water, and - keeping the hose in the hole - place your foot over the hole and hose. Release the kink so the water will flow again. The pressure built up will 1) break the blockage, or 2) let you know that there is no more runway to be filled. The mole is either trapped and drowning - or it's somewhere else, lurking around and waiting til you're gone. It's disturbing to think of a mole laughing at such a lot of work.
Once you have 'made the rounds' of the mole hills and cleared the dirt from the openings, attach the sprayer and clean up the area around the opening, washing the dirt into the holes. You have a few options at this point.
I go to the lowest and/or furthest mole hill and compress the area around the hole(s). These are hopefully the ends of runways. I then go to the highest or most central mole hill and run the water to flood the runways.
This usually either drowns the mole or the mole tries to escape, whereupon my trusty Belgian Malinois makes quick work of the beast. Whatever it is about moles, she will NOT eat them.
Alternately, if the area of infestation is relatively small - 5 to 10 meters or so - you can get your favorite beverage, a comfortable chair and a heavy shovel, then wait for the mole to push up some dirt.
Stealthily move to where the little varmint is doing it's work (it may stop activity for a minute or two), and when you see dirt moving, slam the shovel base on the spot as hard as you can. Moles are highly sensitive to concussion, and that will usually do the trick... at least until the next mole comes around to use the runway.
To help prevent that problem, it is a good idea (and some work) to crush down the runways. This is best done in the Fall and/or early Spring when the ground is uniformly soft. I just soak whatever runways are detectable and rely on the rain to help, then go around and pound the runways with the hard heel of my rubber boots. It helps to be a big guy, but if you're smaller, you can also use a couple of pieces of pipe made into a "T" - and filled with sand at the bottom for weight. Of course, that means you'll build more muscles in your arms, back, shoulders, chest, etc., and that's o.k., too...!!!
Once you are satisfied with that, get a load of dirt similar to your indigenous soil, spread it over the crushed down areas, apply grass seed and smooth it over with a rake (while making a crown - leaving the soil slightly higher along the center). Cover it with bark dust and you're done. The end result looks awful until the new grass grows sufficiently, but it's worth the effort in appearance AND you may well prevent a twisted ankle - or worse - later on.