While helpful for aerating the soil and improving drainage, moles can also cause a lot of damage. Discover the best ways of controlling moles if they are causing problems at home.
Although moles (Talpa europaea) are beneficial to the local ecosystem and soil structure, they are often considered a pest by gardeners. Tunnelling below the surface, the excavated soil, or molehills as they are often known, can ruin prized lawns and upturn beds and borders. Ideally tolerated where possible, we will explain how to control moles if they become a problem.
Mole control: are moles a protected species?
As a species, moles are not protected under UK law. However, any moles you may catch are safeguarded against any unnecessary suffering under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Furthermore, along with other animals under UK law, you may only use certain controls against moles set out under its guidance. This includes only using spring-loaded traps that are normally used for catching moles and that any live moles caught must be killed humanely. The use of bows, crossbows, some explosives and live animals as bait to control moles is prohibited. The use of strychnine to control moles was banned in 2006.
Mole control methods
Even though moles are considered widespread across the UK, they are subterranean dwellers and rarely seen above the surface. Nevertheless, if you have molehills appearing around your garden, you can be certain that you have moles present. Moles in the garden are not always bad though. Being carnivorous, they do not eat plant material and even eat the larvae of some plant pests. Furthermore, moles can help aerate the soil and improve drainage. However, if you need to, you can control them using mole repellents, mole netting or even ultrasonic devices. You can also use certain types of live traps to capture and relocate moles. However, mole control traps are best left to professionals as they can be difficult to operate without the moles suffering and need checking frequently.
In the past smoking out moles or using other chemical repellents was sometimes carried out. However, the UK law currently states that “there are no commercially available repellents approved for use against moles”. That being said, licensed professionals may use fumigation methods for controlling moles under certain strict conditions.
Mole netting is widely available to purchase and can be used to deter moles from damaging lawns. Laid under the turf, the netting can prevent moles from coming up to ground level and making their molehills. However, you need to remove the turf before laying the netting, which may not be an environmentally friendly solution because it is often made from plastic.
Before undertaking the task of laying mole netting, it should be noted that plastic mole netting is not effective against voles, as having sharp teeth they can chew through it. It can be difficult to know if you have moles or voles present. However, you can identify moles by their darker-coloured, often black fur as opposed to the red-brown vole. With regards to their tunnelling behaviour, moles tend to dig deeper and leave behind large molehills, in contrast to the vole’s neat golf ball-sized exit holes.
Other natural and humane methods
Ultrasonic or other noise-emitting devices can also be used for repelling moles. Producing sonic pulses underground, these devices are said to remove garden moles by creating sounds and vibrations that are unpleasant to them. However, being designed to encourage moles to leave their homes and establish new ones further away, the range of ultrasonic mole repellents can sometimes be limited.
Plants such as caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris) and garlic (Allium sativum) are also said to be effective as natural mole repellents. Caper spurge, or the mole plant as it is also known, has long been grown in the fight against moles. Commonly thought of as a weed, its roots are thought to repel moles. However, there is little research to back this up. If you do try growing caper spurge, you will want to wear gloves when handling it, as the sap is toxic. Additionally, remove any seed heads as they appear to prevent it from spreading invasively.
Known for its antifungal properties, garlic is also a natural mole repellent. To deter garden moles naturally, steep a few cloves in boiling water and spray any molehills liberally when cool. However, since rain will dilute the solution and fragrance, frequent applications are needed.
Being closely related, shrews are sometimes confused with moles. You can learn more about shrews (Soricidae) and the differences between them here in our separate article.