The mole, the gardeners’ unloved

By digging underground galleries that produce mounds of soil on the surface, the mole does not go unnoticed. Little appreciated by the green hands who pamper their vegetable gardens and lawns, the small mammal also has its share of qualities. Who really is this burrowing animal? How is it annoying in a garden? What benefits can it bring to the soil? How to live with him?

A snout and clawed paws

It should first be specified that the mole (Talpa europea) is not a rodent. This animal insectivorous belongs to the order Soricomorphs, like shrews, and to the family of talpidae which also includes desmans. Dressed in a dark gray colored fur black, the mole has a cylindrical body which is extended by a stocky tail. Its head has tiny eyes, a snout and ears without a pinna. Its two front legs are covered with horn and have five fingers on the sharp claws which allow him to dig underground galleries. The little mammal measures 15 to 20 cm and weighs between 100 and 140 g.

Myopic like a mole

The mole can see but is unable to discern the movements, which puts it in danger when it is on the surface. His poor vision is compensated by a smell very powerful capable of spotting earthworms buried underground. Its meaning touch is the most developed of all thanks to vibrissae dotting his muzzle. The mole wears at the end of its nose Eimer organs, kinds of tiny taste buds that multiply his sense of to touch.

The confined life of the mole

A characteristic of adaptation of the mole to the subterranean medium is the particular type ofhemoglobin present in his red blood cells. This one is able to transport volumes of carbon dioxide (CO2) much higher than in most animals. At the same time, the talpid has lungs overdeveloped which allow it to store oxygen in quantity, thus offering it a large respiratory autonomy. These specificities not only allow the mammal to evolve for long hours in an environment poor in oxygen and rich in CO2, but also to swallow again the air that he exhaled.

Galleries with different functions

Not very sociable, the mole lives single underground in the cool and loose soils of meadows, fields and gardens. His place of life complex includes:

  • a lodging which is usually found in a sheltered place: edge of hedge, wall or ditch. Once satiated, the mammal comes to rest there;
  • From main galleries with a depth ranging from 20 to 100 cm. These paths, which the animal crosses to go hunting, are permanent and likely to be occupied by future generations. During the breeding season, the female makes her nest there, lining a chamber with dead leaves and grass;
  • From secondary galleries or from hunt which form a network starting from the main galleries. Without precise direction, temporary and superficial (dug in the first few centimeters of the ground), some are only used when they are created and then abandoned;
  • From molehills which consist of earth cuttings evacuated by the animal to enlarge its network of galleries. A large number of mounds does not necessarily correspond to a mole invasion. The land may be lacking food, thus requiring the continuation of the excavations.

The earthworm, his cute sin

The earthworms make up 80% of the mole’s diet, plus a plethora of larvae (crane flies, wireworms, chafer, noctuids, etc.) The mammal also appreciates slugs, mealybugs, centipedes and does not disdain white grubs or cutworms. To feed, the mole travels its galleries and swallows the preys crossed on its way. Every day she consumes her weight in food, about 100 g.

The mole, the gardener’s best enemy

Depending on which side you stand, the mole can be considered as:

  • Harmful when, by bringing the earth to the surface, it forms molehills that disfigure a vegetable patch or an impeccably grassed area. The burrowing animal can also cause damage to the cultures by turning over the seedlings or by cutting the roots when it builds its underground network;
  • Useful when digging its galleries, it promotes aeration of the soil and its drainage. At the same time, the mammal protects the vegetable garden and flower beds by feeding on slugs and other insect pests. With its molehills, it provides a fresh and fine soil, ideal for seedlings or plants in pots.

Solutions to live with moles

If you don’t want to take advantage of benefits what the presence of the small mammal offers in your garden, here are some solutions natural to scare him away without harming him:

  • Insert deep into the gallery of repellents of the mothballs, garlic cloves type, onions peeled…;
  • Push a stick into the molehill and place the top of a plastic bottle cut out. The funnel effect will penetrate the wind in its habitat and will drive it away;
  • Introduce branches of elderberry around the area to be protected. You can also add manure highly concentrated elderberry – effective repellent – around and in galleries;
  • Plant flowers hyacinth, daffodil, imperial fritillary or spurge above the galleries. The bad smell of them bulb keeps away moles like field mice and voles;
  • Bury cake castor in the galleries. This 100% natural plant-based fertilizer repels moles, small rodents and insects. To be banned if you have pets due to the toxicity product for them;
  • Place dog hair in the molehills: their smell will make their occupants run away;
  • And why not just rake mounds of earth? A stroke of the rake and presto, your garden will have found its beautiful shape horizontal !