The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
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site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.
Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
Circular 248 A
i'. I p.'1 ---- -" -/ ~
Revision of no.
INTRODUCTION .. ........ ... ... ............-.............-. 3
DESCRIPTION AND H ABITS ........................................ ......................... 3
N ATURE OF INJURY .........................................-.................... 5
CONTROL .. --..... ...............------- -............... 5
T rapping ............................................-...................... 5
F encing ................... .... ......................... ........................ 9
Poison and Gas ------.........................--.................. .. 9
Long Range Reduction of Food Supply ................................ 10
INSECTICIDE TABLE ............................................----------- 11
Control of Moles
Several kinds of burrowing animals are found in Florida but
moles generally cause the most annoyance. These pests are
widely distributed and often do considerable damage to gar-
dens, lawns, golf courses and farms.
Persons who write to the Institute of Food and Agricultural
Sciences regarding trouble with moles nearly always state that
they have tried all the known remedies and that they have not
succeeded in getting rid of the pests. More often than not, their
failures are due to a lack of understanding of the habits and
behavior of the animals or because they have neglected some
important feature of the control method used. Although control
of these animals is admittedly difficult, a person who is patient,
persevering, and willing to observe and study their habits, can
catch or destroy them in several ways. This circular attempts to
point out those things that should receive attention when one is
confronted with a mole problem. It describes a few control
methods that have proven effective against them.
DESCRIPTION AND HABITS
Only one species of mole is known to occur in Florida but it
includes six races which differ somewhat in size and other fea-
tures. These races are so similar in habits and behavior that
it is not necessary to differentiate between them in control
measures. Moles live so completely underground that they are
seldom seen even by persons who are familiar with their work-
ings in the soil. The mole has a rather elongate body (Fig. 1)
and measures about five or six inches from the end of its long
flexible nose to the tip of its short tail. It is clothed with short,
fine, plush-like fur. The hind legs are rather small but the
front legs are short and stout and they end in broad, rounded
hands armed with strong claws and with the palms turned out-
ward. There are no external eyes or ears and the mole apparently
gets most of its sensations through the nose, which serves as an
organ of both touch and smell. The mole also is very sensitive
to vibrations in the soil.
Fig. 1.-A common Florida mole.
Most mole burrows are made as the animals move through the
soil in search of food but some of the deeper tunnels serve as
permanent passageways and are used by the animals in going
from one part of their range to another.
It is popularly believed that the mole uses its nose to burrow
through the soil but this is not the case. As it extends its run-
ways, the movements of the mole are like those of a swimmer
using the breast stroke. The front feet are brought forward
until they almost meet in front of the nose and then the powerful
shoulder muscles force them outward and backward, pushing the
soil to either side. At the same time the soil above the animal is
lifted into the familiar loose ridge so characteristic of mole
runways. When deep tunnels are dug, soil may be removed to
the surface or perhaps into a salamander burrow if one happens
to be handy.
Persons viewing numerous burrows in their yards or gardens
often assume that the premises have been invaded by large
numbers of moles. Actually only one or two moles are respon-
sible for all of the damage in the majority of cases. The mole
is an active animal and requires a great deal of food. It must
be constantly on the move to satisfy this need. Only part of
the mole's food is obtained while it is making new burrows in the
soil. Probably the bulk of it is captured as the animal makes
regular rounds through its system of burrows and picks up
whatever small animals chance to enter the runways. In Florida,
moles are active at all times of the year as well as all hours of
the day and night.
NATURE OF INJURY
Opinion differs concerning the food of moles. They often are
accused of cutting the roots of shrubs and trees and of eating
such root crops as sweet potatoes, carrots or peanuts. Actually
the mole is only an "innocent bystander" in most cases, while
the real culprits are pocket gophers (salamanders), cotton rats
or mice. Moles in captivity will eat sprouting kernels of corn
and peanuts. It seems probable therefore that they feed to some
extent on germinating seeds and growing peanuts. However,
this type of damage is generally negligible. An examination of
the mouth of a mole will convince anyone that it cannot eat
tough, woody roots, for the teeth are small and needle-like
(Fig. 2, bottom) and certainly not suited for gnawing. The
stomachs of numerous moles have been examined and these
studies showed that earth-worms and insects constitute the bulk
of their food.
If food were the only consideration, moles would undoubtedly
be considered beneficial animals, for they eat large numbers of
harmful pests. However, in searching for food, moles do so much
damage in lawns and gardens that they cannot be tolerated. As
a mole extends its shallow runways, small plants are uprooted
and the roots of others are broken. This injury is particularly
destructive when the course of a burrow follows a row of young
vegetables or other crop. Moles often burrow beneath azalea
beds or other shrubbery and loosen the soil, causing it to dry
out, with the result that the plants suffer severely from lack
of moisture, even though rainfall is ample or the plants are
Trapping.-Trapping generally is the most satisfactory meth-
od of destroying moles. However, the results are likely to be
disappointing unless the trapper considers and understands the
habits and instincts of the animals. The mole is very suspicious
of any foreign object or substance in its runway. If any portion
of the trap is exylosed in
the tunnel opening the
mole will certainly detect
it and back away. It will
then either desert that
part of the runway or
c will tunnel around or un-
der the trap. On the
e other hand the mole is
not at all disturbed by
soil blocking the runway,
since it encounters this
situation regularly when
people or animals step on
the burrow and close it.
Taking advantage of this
fact is one of the impor-
tant secrets of success-
ful mole trapping.
The two most success-
ful types of traps for
Fig. 2.-Comparison of teeth of mole
(lower) and salamander. Mole has short, catching moles in the
needle-like teeth for chewing insects, grubs southeastern states are
and earthworms; salamander has sharp,
chisel-like front teeth suitable for gnawing. the choker type (Fig. 3),
and the harpoon type
(Fig. 4). Since success or failure of mole trapping depends so
largely on the setting of the trap, the proper procedure is de-
scribed in detail.
First you must determine a suitable place for setting the
trap. Many of the visible runways are made during the search
for food, and the mole may never use these runways again. Hence
it would be a waste of time and effort to set a trap on such a
runway, so you must find one that is used continuously. An easy
way to locate a regularly used runway is to block (cave in) short
sections of all the visible runways-and then check each day to
learn which runways the mole reopens. Runways are easily
blocked by stamping down short sections of a foot or more in
length (Fig. 5). Repeat this blocking and checking for two or
three consecutive days and you will be reasonably sure as to
which runways the moles -- I
are regularly using. ,
Choose a trap setting
location on one of the
regularly used runways '
where the trap will not '"' ,,,"
interfere with other ac- ''
tivities and where the
soil is soft and relatively /
free of small stones.
With the aid of a small
garden trowel, or other
suitable tool, carefully
remove the soil for a dis-
tance equal to the width Fig. 3.-The choker type of mole trap,
which kills the animal with the loops.
of the trap being used,
and only to the depth of the bottom of the mole runway.
You can now position the trap to be used so it will straddle
the runway and leave the trigger pan approximately one inch
above the top of the run-
7' t1W 'way. Be sure that none
Sof the metal parts are
h. exposed to the runway,
and the trigger pan is
p. ositioned directly over
S' the runway. Use the
/ garden trowel to replace
S1the excavated soil and
O. carefully compact it, es-
Specially beneath the trig-
Sger pan. Care must be
taken during this proced-
ure to be sure the trap is
-/ not accidentally tripped,
S and to safeguard the
.. ..**ii hands and face in the
event the trap is acciden-
Stally tripped, in which
case the soil is removed
.. and the trap is reset.
If the excavated soil
Fig. 4.-A common type of mole trap, s
sometimes known as a harpoon trap. has small stones (larger
than 12 inch diameter) or hard bits of wood, these items should
be screened out before the soil is replaced around the trap.
This is especially important for the harpoon type trap because
a descending prong which strikes a stone can force the whole
trap upward and allow the mole to escape. Experienced trap-
pers are able to obtain good results without excavating the soil
for the trap placement. This is accomplished by compressing
the mole runway by stepping on it just once (after locating a
frequently used runway). The harpoon trap is then pushed into
the ground so it will be in the proper position with the trigger
pan snuggly fitting into the foot mark. Purposely springing
(tripping) the trap once
after it has been set
will demonstrate whether
the prongs have a clear
path, and the trap is then
reset. The choker type
trap requires a trowel or
S small spade to "cut" a
Slot for the choker loops.
The area between the
l two slots should be com-
Spressed by stepping and
/ / / the set trap should be
S/ / pushed into position with
the trigger pan fitting
Fig. 5.-Pressing down the mole runway into the foot mark.
preparatory to setting the trap.
If a trap fails to prod-
uce after two days of "reasonable" weather, it can mean: a
change in habits of the mole; the runway was disturbed too
much; the trap was improperly set and was detected by the
mole. In any event, a trap at a non-productive set should be
moved to a new location.
Gardeners and caretakers often have an opportunity to
catch moles without the use of special tools. When new run-
ways are being constructed, it is possible to quietly move behind
the mole and block off his retreat by using the heel to stamp
shut his runway, or to drive a shovel or hoe across the runway.
This must be done quickly and quietly because a mole can travel
his runway surprisingly fast, even in reverse. When a mole
is blocked into the short end of the runway, it becomes an easy
matter to excavate and dispatch it. This can be done with the
hands if no other tools are available. A mole will try to bite,
but the small mouth and teeth cannot inflict serious injury.
Fencing.-Sometimes small areas such as seed beds, or "fish
worm" plots sustain excessive and persistent mole damage. For
these areas it may justify the installation of a sheet metal or
hardware cloth fence. Such a fence should begin at the ground
surface and go to a depth of at least 12 inches and then bend
outward at a 900 angle for an additional 10 inches. Connections
and joints in the fence must be secure and snug as food hunting
moles will travel along the fence searching for an entrance.
Poison and Gas.-Requests for information on mole control
often ask about poison
baits and whether moles
can be drowned or gas-
sed. Such requests are
reasonable enough, for it
is well known that poison
baits are effectively used
against field rodents, and
.. -- domestic rats and mice.
"' i- Unfortunately, t h e s e
'/ ;/ / "". cy-- remedies are not effec-
tive against moles, even
h' _- though they may at
times appear to give con-
trol. Moles feed on small
Fig. 6.-Spading the mole runway to living animals and this
cut a slot for the choker loops.
makes it extremely dif-
ficult to devise a bait they will readily eat.
A mole family will maintain a runway system with many
branching tunnels which often totals more than fifty yards in
length. This complex runway system added to the sandy texture
of Florida soils precludes any effective use of either gas or water
for mole control. However, it may be possible to carefully in-
troduce gasses or chemicals into a runway and thereby discour-
age the mole from using that portion of his area for a time.
Such things as car exhaust (carbon monoxide), powdered sul-
phur, paradichlorobenzene crystals, naphthalene flakes, or moth-
balls can be used but care must be taken not to kill plants by
Long Range Reduction of Food Supply.-Moles require a
large volume of food, often as much as would equal their own
body weight, per day.
Because of this it is pos-
sible to reduce the
amount of worms and in-
sects in the soil by the in-
telligent use of insecti-
cides and force the moles
Sto move to other areas.
Chlordane is effective for
and soil insects and this
insecticide can be pur-
chased in most garden
Chlordane may be ob-
tained in wettable pow-
c ders, granules, dusts
Sor emulsifiable concen-
trates. Carefully read the
labels and follow the
4 .manufacturers instruc-
tions for all handling and
Fig. 7.-Properly set mole trap. Note the
slight depression under the trigger pan. mixing. The safety of
handling, storage and
use of such chemicals is always a responsibility of the individual.
Excessive applications of chemicals may become detrimental
to local populations of insectivorous birds, reptiles and amphi-
bians. Care should always be taken to be sure that none of the
chemicals or water drainage from treated areas reach bird
baths or fish ponds.
The following table gives suggested amounts of Chlordane
for use on average soil and conditions. Dust and granule applica-
tions always should be followed immediately by a thorough
wetting of the area to reduce the hazard and soak the chemicals
into the soil.
Insecticide and Formulation Per 1,000 Sq. Ft.
Dry: 5% Chlordane, dust or granules 5 Pounds
10% Chlordane, dust or granules 2% Pounds
Spray: 40% Chlordane, WP 10 Ounces
50% Chlordane, WP 8 Ounces
44% Chlordane, EC 8 Ounces
72% Chlordane, EC 4 Ounces
WP = Wettable Powder
EC = Emulsifiable Concentrate
The first edition was Experiment Station Circular S-86. First revision
was by A. N. Tissot, Entomologist, Agricultural Experiment Stations and
C. R. Madsen, Rodent Control Specialist of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife and
Florida Agricultural Extension Service. This revision is by James E.
Brogdon, Entomologist, Florida Agricultural Extension Service and Vernon
D. Cunningham, State Supervisor, Fish and Wildlife Services.
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service, University of Florida,
and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
M. 0. Watkins, Director
Four Keys to
READ THE LABEL ON EACH PESTICIDE CONTAINER
\ BEFORE EACH USE. HEED ALL
CAUTIONS AND WARNINGS.
STORE PESTICIDES IN THEIR ORIGINAL,
LABELED CONTAINERS AWAY FROM FOOD '
OR FEED. KEEP THEM OUT OF THE REACH ,
OF CHILDREN, PETS AND LIVESTOCK. /' o,
/ APPLY PESTICIDES ONLY AS DIRECTED.
DISPOSE OF EMPTY CONTAINERS
PROMPTLY AND SAFELY.
- W -
AN S~~L .
'F USN Y I