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Moles Facts, Identification, and Control

Family Talpidae

Moles (the animals) are small, burrowing mammals known for their velvety fur and elusive underground lifestyle. They have a distinctive appearance characterized by a conical shape, a pointed snout, and very small, concealed ears and eyes, adaptations that aid their life beneath the surface. Their fur can be a variety of colors, ranging from gray to brown, and is exceptionally soft and dense, allowing it to repel soil and water easily. One of the most striking features of moles is their large, paddle-like front feet equipped with sharp claws, designed for efficient digging. These creatures have a compact, cylindrical body with a short tail, which helps them navigate through the intricate tunnel systems they create. Despite their small size and hidden habitats, moles play a significant role in aerating the soil and controlling insect populations underground.

Moles are solitary and primarily subterranean animals, exhibiting fascinating behaviors related to their underground existence. They are industrious diggers and create complex tunnel systems that serve as their living quarters, hunting grounds, and protection against predators. These tunnels enable them to access their primary food source: insects and invertebrates, with earthworms being a particular favorite. Moles have a voracious appetite, consuming nearly 70-100% of their body weight daily to support their energy-intensive digging activities. Their diet helps control insect populations, thus playing a vital role in the ecosystem.

Moles are most active during the cool and damp periods of the day, particularly at dawn and dusk. Although mostly seen as solitary creatures, moles may share some parts of their tunnel networks without direct interaction. Their keen sense of touch and smell compensates for their poor eyesight, guiding them to prey underground. Seasonally, their activity might vary, with moles working harder to store food or find mates during specific times of the year. Despite their elusive nature, the presence of moles is often made apparent by the molehills and raised ridges they create as they excavate their subterranean passages.

Moles engage in breeding once a year, typically during the late winter to early spring. The solitary nature of moles is momentarily set aside during the breeding season, as males actively seek out females by tunneling through the ground to find them. After mating, the female mole constructs a special, larger chamber within her tunnel system to serve as a nesting area. This nest is lined with soft materials like grasses and leaves to provide a warm, comfortable environment for her offspring. The gestation period for moles is about 4 to 6 weeks, leading to the birth of 2 to 7 young per litter. These newborn moles, or pups, are born blind and hairless, utterly dependent on their mother for nourishment and protection. Within a few weeks, the pups develop fur and are weaned, starting to explore the tunnel system. By the time they are about one month old, they are capable of digging their own tunnels, and shortly after, they leave their mother's territory to establish their own. Moles reach sexual maturity by their first year, ready to continue the cycle of reproduction.

Signs of a mole infestation are distinctly marked by disruptions in the landscape caused by their extensive underground tunneling activities. The most noticeable sign is the presence of molehills, which are mounds of soil created as moles excavate their tunnel systems and push the displaced earth to the surface. These mounds can vary in size but are typically conical or volcano-shaped. In addition to molehills, the presence of raised ridges crisscrossing the lawn or garden beds is another indicator; these are surface tunnels where moles hunt for food just below the ground's surface. An increased number of these surface tunnels and mounds can indicate a significant mole presence, as each mole can construct extensive networks of tunnels covering large areas. Further, patches of discolored or dead vegetation may appear as the result of moles disturbing the roots of plants while tunneling. While moles are beneficial for soil aeration and pest control, their vigorous digging can damage roots, irrigation systems, and create unsightly mounds and ridges, prompting efforts to manage their presence in yards and gardens.

Belonging to the order Soricomorpha and the family Talpidae, moles are represented by numerous species across the United States, among which the Eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) is notably prevalent. This species is distinguished by its widespread presence and constitutes the majority of the mole population within the U.S., showcasing a significant ecological footprint.

Despite the diversity among mole species, their characteristics remain relatively consistent, marked by their specialized adaptations for a subterranean lifestyle. These creatures are often mistaken for rodents due to their burrowing habits and appearance; however, they are insectivores, feeding primarily on insects and invertebrates, which sets them apart from the rodent classification.

Moles are known for their potential to cause significant damage to orchards and turf, leading to various methods being developed for controlling their population. Among these, setting traps directly above the moles' tunnels emerges as the most effective strategy. Identifying active tunnels poses a challenge, as moles possess the ability to rapidly alter their routes within their intricate underground networks. Nonetheless, effective mole management requires a combination of understanding their behavior, habitat preferences, and timely intervention to mitigate the damage they can inflict on human-managed landscapes.

Top 8 Mole Myths

The belief that moles are rodents is a widespread myth; however, moles actually belong to the mammalian order Eulipotyphla, distinguishing them from the rodent family.

Unlike rodents, which have a diet primarily consisting of seeds and plant material, moles are insectivores, feeding on insects, worms, and other invertebrates found in the soil. This classification is based on their distinct anatomical and dietary characteristics, setting them apart from rodents and highlighting their unique niche within the animal kingdom.

The myth that moles are blind is a common misconception; in reality, moles have eyes and are capable of seeing, albeit with limited visual acuity. Their eyes are small and often concealed within their fur, which contributes to the belief that they lack vision.

While moles primarily rely on their sense of touch and smell to navigate the underground and detect prey, their vision, though not their strongest sense, plays a role in distinguishing light from dark and aiding in their nocturnal activities.

The notion that moles are territorial and live solitary lives is rooted in truth, reflecting their typical behavioral patterns.

Moles spend the majority of their time alone, establishing and maintaining extensive tunnel networks that serve both as their habitat and hunting grounds.

While they are indeed territorial, particularly males during the breeding season, some overlap in tunnels can occur without direct confrontation, suggesting a complex balance between solitary living and occasional interactions within their subterranean world.

The belief that moles eat flowers and vegetables is a misconception; in reality, moles are insectivores, primarily feeding on earthworms, grubs, and other soil-dwelling invertebrates.

The damage often attributed to moles in gardens and lawns is actually a result of their tunneling activities, not their consumption of plant material. While their burrowing can disturb the roots of plants, leading to secondary damage, moles themselves do not directly feed on or target flowers and vegetables.

The statement that moles consume two to three times their body weight in food each day holds a significant amount of truth, highlighting their high metabolic rate.

This impressive daily intake is necessary to support their active, energy-intensive lifestyle, primarily consisting of constant digging and tunneling in search of food.

Their diet, mainly composed of earthworms and other small invertebrates, provides the essential nutrients and energy required to sustain such vigorous physical activity.

The misconception that moles are eating plant bulbs and roots arises from misunderstandings about their diet and behavior.

Moles are insectivores, focused on consuming soil invertebrates like earthworms and grubs, not plant material.

The apparent damage to bulbs and roots often attributed to moles is actually collateral, resulting from their tunneling activities which can disturb the soil and affect plant health indirectly, or it may be caused by other animals that utilize mole tunnels to access plants.

The idea that moles are strictly nocturnal is a simplification of their actual behavior patterns. While moles can be more active during the night, they do not adhere strictly to nocturnal habits;they are also active at various times throughout the day, especially during early morning and late evening.

Their activity is largely influenced by soil conditions and the availability of prey, rather than being strictly limited to nighttime hours, making them more accurately described as having periods of activity both day and night.

By nature, moles are woodland animals. However, they can easily spread out and inhabit any residential property not well taken care of. Since they operate through tunnel networks, it becomes very difficult to control or get rid of them if they are allowed to occupy the property for too long.

Moles spend a good part of their lives in underground tunnels or runways which appears to be a low ridge on the surface of flowerbeds, yards and any other landscape. These tunnels are created for the purpose of food search, nesting, protection, resting and as well for living space for traveling.

Most tunnels created by moles are often found under lawn turf, along flowerbeds, sidewalks, fence lines and dirt roads as well as places where insects are in abundance. The major tunnels measures about 6 inches away from ground level, the shallow ones are about 2 inches deep while deeper ones are 20 inches however, they don’t make use of the shallow ones more than ones.

Occasionally, moles show up on ground surface mostly at night in search of food, water, nesting materials and can as well migrate to a new environment during the night.

Voles Facts, Identification, and Control

The scientific name for a vole, commonly referred to as a meadow vole, is "Microtus pennsylvanicus." It's important to note that "vole" is a common name for several species within the genus Microtus, and there are many different species of voles around the world, each with its own scientific name.

Voles, often mistaken for mice due to their similar size and appearance, are small, stocky rodents with a dense, soft fur that can range in color from brown to grey. They have a distinctive blunt snout, small eyes, and partially hidden ears, setting them apart from other rodents. Their body length typically ranges from 3 to 9 inches, including a short tail that is much less prominent than that of mice. Unlike mice, voles have a more robust body and shorter, hairier tail. Their physical adaptations, including powerful limbs and claws, are suited for a life spent mostly burrowing and foraging through dense vegetation on the ground, making them well-equipped for their subterranean lifestyle.

Voles are small, herbivorous rodents known for their burrowing habits and high reproductive rates, which contribute to their significant impact on the environments they inhabit. These creatures exhibit a variety of behaviors and habits that are closely tied to their need for constant access to vegetation.

Voles are primarily active year-round, day and night, showing less of a preference for nocturnal or diurnal patterns, and their activity levels can fluctuate depending on the availability of food and environmental conditions. Their diet consists mainly of grasses, seeds, roots, and bulbs, but they can also consume bark and leaves, especially during winter months when other food sources are scarce.

Voles live in dense grassy areas like meadows, gardens, and fields, where they create intricate systems of runways and tunnels for protection and to access food. Their burrowing can cause damage to crops and gardens, making them a concern for farmers and gardeners. Socially, voles exhibit a range of behaviors from solitary to communal living, depending on the species, with some building extensive underground networks shared by multiple individuals.

Vole reproduction is notably rapid and efficient, contributing to their ability to quickly populate a wide range of habitats. These small rodents have one of the highest reproduction rates among mammals, with females capable of breeding throughout the year under favorable conditions. A female vole can give birth to several litters annually, each containing three to six young on average, although this number can vary significantly among different vole species. The gestation period is short, lasting only about three weeks, allowing for the rapid succession of generations. Young voles mature quickly, often reaching sexual maturity within a month of birth, which further accelerates the population growth. This high reproductive capacity enables vole populations to recover swiftly from declines, but also makes them a challenge to manage in agricultural and garden settings where they can become pests.

Signs of a vole infestation are distinct and can be observed through various indicators in the affected environment. One of the most telling signs is the presence of numerous crisscrossing, narrow pathways or runways on the surface of the ground, especially in grassy or vegetated areas, which are created as voles move about in search of food. Additionally, you might notice small, round entrance and exit holes to their underground tunnel systems scattered across your lawn or garden. Another sign is damage to the base of trees and shrubs, where voles chew on the bark, potentially girdling and killing younger plants. Visible damage to root systems, bulbs, and tubers in gardens can also indicate vole activity, as can patches of suddenly wilting plants, which may have had their roots severed by vole tunnels. Observing these signs early can be crucial in managing and mitigating the impact of a vole infestation on your property.

Owing to the difficulty in differentiating a vole from a mouse, it is important you first have a professional pest controller inspect your property if you suspect vole infestation. After inspection, the professional exterminator will then propose effective ways of managing containing the voles. There are different methods of controlling moles, but the method you eventually settle for will depend on the number of voles. Exclusion, trapping, habitat modification are some of the common techniques used controlling vole infestation.

Vole Removal