Stomping the mole hills doesn't work

Getting Rid of Moles: What Works, and What Doesn’t 10

Like a lot of guys, I take great pride in my lawn. I like it green, flat, fertilized, and weed-free. Because I have an irrigation well, I’m able to water my lawn all summer long and keep the soil moist. But wherever you have moist soil, you have earthworms. And wherever you have earthworms, you have animals whose primary diet consists of earthworms… like moles.



The devil.

I hate moles. I hate them with the same passion that Carl from Caddyshack hated the gopher:

Every year, I do battle with the moles. They create countless mounts of dirt in my beautiful lawn. I’ve tried three different methods of getting rid of them, with varied success. This post addresses what works well, and what works less well.

Doesn’t Work: Stomping the Mole Hills Down

The first thing that doesn’t work is just stomping down the hills, hoping it will close off their tunnels. Moles are expert diggers, and they’ll just re-dig, creating an even bigger mess.

Stomping the mole hills doesn't work

Stomping the mole hills doesn’t work

Does Work: A Profe$$ional Mole Trapper

In the past, I’ve paid a “mole guy” to come set traps, which works great. But it’s just so darn expensive. Trapping moles can be very effective, but there’s a science to it, and it’s easy to do it wrong. You need the right traps, you need to set them properly, and you need to cover them properly. But you also need to dispose of the dead moles when you’ve trapped them, and retrieve your traps.

Traps work, but they're work

Traps work, but they’re work

I have a few friends who are very successful at mole trapping, but I’ve just never taken the time to learn how to do it.

Doesn’t Work: Molecat Extermination Kit

I’m bummed to report this. I had really big hopes for the Molecat Extermination Kit. I love the concept: killing the mole with the shock from a small caliber charge. Their how-to video is compelling:

I bought one from my local hardware store for just under $100, set it up exactly as shown in the video, and checked it every morning. When it didn’t work in one spot, I’d move it to a different one. After a week without it even going off once, and with new mounds appearing every day, I gave up. It’s simply not cost effective to cover more than one hole at a time, and I had at least three different sections of my lawn where moles were making new mounds every day.

Might Work: Sonic Mole Repellent Spikes

Full disclosure: I don’t have first-hand experience with sonic mole repellent spikes, but a friend of mine named Ian saw me complaining about moles on Facebook, and assures me they worked for him. He informed me that the moles came back when his batteries died, which supports his argument that they do indeed work.

The concept behind these spikes is that they emit sounds made by moles (and other burrowing animals) when predators are near, scaring moles away. The drawback is that you’ll have to replace the batteries. They do make solar-powered ones, but I’m assuming they simply charge internal batteries, and they’ll eventually need to be replaced, as well. At $20 per spike, this isn’t a cost-effective approach if you have a large lawn, but if you have a small enough lawn area, or if you’d prefer to dissuade the moles from moving in rather than killing them, this might be something to try.

Does Work: Bromethalin Mole Bait

One of my neighbors, Harvey, a master gardener, tree-farm owner, retired Washington State Trooper, and just an all-around-dude whose opinion you can trust, heard about my mole problem and offered me his solution: Talpirid bait worms. They’re a pesticide in the form of bait that looks like earthworms. You simply stick them down in the moles’ tunnels, where the moles are attracted to them, eat them, and then die inside their own tunnels within 48 hours.

Poison worms -- it's what's for dinner!

Poison worms — it’s what’s for dinner!

For more details on how and why these work, and tips on using them, check out this promo video from their manufacturer:

One of the benefits of bait worms is that (unlike the Molecat Extermination Kit) it’s easy to cover multiple spots at once. Also, even if a mole eats one bait worm and dies, if another mole moves into his territory and takes over the tunnels, the uneaten bait is still there waiting for him. I also like the fact that, unlike with traps, I don’t have to touch the dead moles. I’d rather they rot inside the tunnels as a signal to other moles that I mean business. 🙂

I ordered a box from Amazon, and waited for it to arrive.

When I got the shipping notification, however, I learned was going to have to wait for at least 3 days until the Talpirid worms arrived. At the rate the moles were going, I didn’t want to wait that long. So I headed to my local hardware store (Johnson’s in Maple Valley) to see if they carried Talpirid. They they didn’t. 🙁

They did, however, carry Tomcat Mole Killer worms, so I looked on the side of the box to see the active ingredient. The box said “0.025% Bromethalin” with “99.975% inert ingredients.” I used my phone to look up the ingredients of Talpirid, and found the exact same thing: 0.025% bromethalin. I bought the Tomcat Mole Killer worms, knowing that if they worked, I’d be happy to keep the Talpirid when it showed up a few days later, since I’d want to have some stockpiled for future mole attacks.

This is a good point to pause and mention that bromethalin is a poison (duh). It’s designed to kill rodents, but it can hurt (and even kill) household pets if they eat it… or potentially if they eat a rodent that has already ingested it. Sadly, one of my neighbors (who doesn’t use pesticides in his yard) reported to me that his dog died as a result of eating a poisoned mouse. Check out the Pet Poison Helpline listing for bromethalin for more info, and if you choose to use this or any other poison, please do so responsibly, and consider the risks. And if you have pets in your back yard, keep them away from the baited areas, and remove uneaten bait after your mole problem has cleared.

Deciding the Tomcat worms were worth a try, I brought the box home and followed the instructions in the Talpirid how-to video — except that based on the advice of my master gardener friend, I pulled the worms into halves, thereby doubling the number of areas I could bait.

I wore latex gloves (moles can smell humans on anything we touch), carefully located what I believed to be active mounds, scooped away the dirt, opened a hole that I could use to insert the worm and inspect my bait later, placed the worm inside, then covered the hole with a rock (I didn’t shove the rock down in the hole, I just covered the hole to prevent sunlight from getting in). To prevent my landscapers from hitting the rocks with their mowers,  and to help me remember where I put the bait, I placed landscaping flags at each bait location. In total, I used six whole worms, cut in half, to bait twelve locations in three different sections of my 90,000 square foot lawn. I went to bed, dreaming of dead moles.

The next morning, I woke up to and looked outside. No new molehills in my yard. I almost couldn’t believe it. It was miraculous — and the first time in weeks it was true! I grabbed a set of gloves and went outside to check under all the rocks. In all but two of the twelve locations, a mole had pushed dirt back up into the inspection hole against the underside of the rock. I took that as a good sign that the mole(s) had been there, and I assumed (based on the lack of new hills) that they’d taken the bait.

The following morning, there were still no new molehills. The bromethalin bait worms actually work! And I’ve found my new mole solution.

So whether you use Talpirid or Tomcat, I’m not sure it makes a difference. I’ve put my leftover worms in my garden shed, ready to spring into action the next time I see a mole hill.

For me, the solution is quick, cost-effective, and extremely satisfying that I’m helping to rid world of the “Varmint Cong” … one mole at a time.

Bottom line: If you have moles, get some Talpirid or Tomcat Mole Killer, cut the worms in half to double your coverage area, and knock ’em dead.

UPDATE: I just received an email from another neighbor of mine who read my blog post. We’ll call her “Nancy,” because… uh, well, that’s actually her name! She informed me that they’ve also been using the worms for the past few months with great success, and that they’ve been using the Motomco Killer Grubs, also cut in half. I looked up the ingredients in Motomco, and sure enough: it’s 0.025% Bromethalin.

So it appears that as long as that’s the ingredient in the mole worms, you’re good to go! I’ve also been told that smearing a bit of peanut butter on the worms (wear gloves – the moles will smell you and you shouldn’t handle a pesticide with bare hands) will make it even more enticing to them.