Moles a widespread problem in Lowcountry yards
Lori Thompson knows unwelcome guests are living on her property without seeing them. There’s evidence they have decided to take up residence under her James Island backyard.
These mole facts are from mole control experts and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
The Eastern mole is typically the one found in South Carolina yards. It is covered with grayish brown fur, has a pink nose and clawed feet.
The mole’s eyes are covered by velvety fur and it has no external ears.
It eats its body weight in food each day.
The mole can dig a foot of shallow tunnel per minute and 12 to 15 feet of deep tunnel per hour.
Mole hills are made as moles move underground, pushing soil to the top. The hills range from 2 to 24 inches tall, flatten over time and leave bare areas.
The not-so-cute little trailing mounds of dirt Thompson sees are a dead giveaway, she says.
Thompson, like many Lowcountry homeowners, has a mole problem that becomes more obvious around this time of year.
It may be unusual to associate creatures weighing 3 to 6 ounces with big problems, but in Thompson’s case, that’s the way it is. She wishes the moles, which can grow up to 8 inches long, including tails, would go away.
“They’re tearing up my yard and the grass is not able to grow,” says Thompson, who is focused on mole riddance for the third year in a row.
“This year they’ve been active for about three weeks.”
Moles, small mammals sometimes incorrectly thought of as belonging to the rodent family, live underground in a network of tunnels that homeowners would never see. The small, furry creatures have unmistakable curved claws as their most distinctive feature and have a 4- to 5-year lifespan.
Kevin Murphy, owner of Critter Control, a pest control company that works to keep moles at bay, says they can be found in any kind of soil where there’s a food supply.
They feed on grubs, mature insects and earthworms, Murphy says.
Homeowners can treat their yards with chemicals to eliminate the bugs and worms, he says.
“Once you treat your yard, they should leave. They do make a lot of natural stuff now, but it’s nowhere near as effective as chemicals.”
Moles should stay away as long as the chemical is active, he says. But homeowners should not become complacent.
“You have got to stay on top of it,” he says.
David Bevis, owner of Holy Moley pest control company, takes a different approach. Bevis traps and then removes the moles, which does not invite more moles to take up residence, he says.
It’s not in their nature to move more than 30 or 40 feet from where they were born, so it is unlikely other moles will move in from neighboring yards, he says.
“Most insecticides have a three-week residual and their effectiveness is limited. They only permeate an inch or inch and a half. The moles will just go deeper into tunnels,” says Bevis.
Thompson neither tried killing the food supply with chemicals nor trapping and removing the moles, but she did find a solution that provided some relief.
Last year, her second living with the moles, she purchased gadgets at a big-box store. They were stakes with a mechanism that puts out sound waves to discourage the moles from coming near. She installed them flush with the ground in her quarter-acre backyard in April and by July the moles seemed to have moved away.
Apparently, the batteries ran out during fall or winter, because she started seeing trails again this year, Thompson says. She changed the batteries and hopes that she’ll get the same relief from the critters this year that she did last year.
The moles go where the insects go, says Bevis.
“In the winter time, colder air makes insects go deeper and they go with them,” he says. “When it’s warmer, most insects are in the first couple of inches below the ground.”
“In residential areas, they will go under the driveways,” Bevis says. As in other parts of the yard, they’ll live anywhere from 2 to 3 feet underground. The air pockets moles make when tunneling under driveways can cause the surface to crack when heavy trucks roll over them.
Some areas of the Lowcountry have worse mole problems than others, says Bevis. He mentioned Kiawah, Seabrook and the Melrose subdivision in West Ashley as having big mole problems.
“If you are in an area where the water table is really high, you are not going to have as many,” Bevis says.
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.