Effective Mole Control Methods to Protect Plants and Trees

Gardening can be an enjoyable and rewarding activity, providing beauty and bounty to outdoor spaces. However, pesky moles can wreak havoc on a well-kept garden by burrowing through the soil and damaging plants and trees. Many gardeners are perplexed by the challenge of controlling these underground critters, but fear not! Through a combination of preventative measures and trapping techniques, effective mole control is possible. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the behaviors and habits of moles, explore methods for preventing damage, and provide step-by-step instructions for trapping and killing moles.

Understanding Moles

Understanding Moles
When it comes to gardening and maintaining the health of your landscaping, there are a variety of factors to keep in mind. However, one creature that can often wreak havoc on your plants and trees are moles. While they may be small in size, their burrowing habits can cause extensive damage to the root systems of your greenery. It’s important to understand mole behavior and the signs of their damage in order to effectively combat them. By doing so, you can prevent the negative impact moles can have on your soil and plant nutrition. Identifying mole damage on your plants and trees is an important first step in understanding how to effectively protect your landscaping.

Mole Behavior

Moles are small burrowing mammals that belong to the Talpidae family. There are several species of moles, including the Eastern mole, the Star-nosed mole, and the Hairy-tailed mole. Moles are found throughout North America and are known for their destructive tendencies in gardens, lawns, and agricultural land. Understanding mole behavior is essential in controlling mole infestations and preventing damage to plants and trees.

Below is a table summarizing important mole behavior traits:

Mole Behavior Description
Diet Moless feed mainly on insects, grubs, and earthworms. They may also feed on small animals such as voles, shrews, and mice.
Burrowing habits Moless are excellent diggers and can tunnel at a speed of about 1 foot per minute. They create a network of shallow tunnels just beneath the surface of the soil and deeper tunnels that lead to feeding chambers. These tunnels can be up to 18 inches underground.
Breeding Moless breed in the early spring, and females usually have one litter per year. A litter typically consists of 2-7 young, which are born blind and naked.
Activity Moless are most active during the early morning and late afternoon. They are solitary animals and may overlap territories with other moles. They are also known to be active year-round, regardless of the season or weather conditions.

Moles can cause extensive damage to plants and trees, particularly if they tunnel through root systems. To learn more about preventing mole damage to plants and trees, check out our article on Preventing Mole Damage.

Signs of Mole Damage

One of the most obvious signs of mole damage is the appearance of mounds of soil on the surface of the ground. These molehills can vary in size, but are typically small and circular. When moles make shallow tunnels just below the surface of the soil, these tunnels can cause the ground to be soft and spongy. This can lead to uneven terrain, as well as damage to the roots of plants and trees.

Plants and trees that are vulnerable to mole damage may show symptoms such as wilting leaves, stunted growth, or yellowing foliage. In severe cases, mole damage can even cause death of the plant or tree. As moles tunnel through the soil, they can uproot and damage the roots of plants, depriving them of vital nutrients and stunting their growth.

It is important to take action to prevent and control mole damage, as it can have a significant impact on the health of your garden, orchard, or landscape. For more information on how mole damage can impact the health of your plants and trees, see our article on moles and plant health.

Preventing Mole Damage

Preventing Mole Damage
As gardeners and homeowners, it is vital to take preventative measures when it comes to protecting your plants and trees from the damaging effects of moles. Understanding the behavior of these subterranean creatures is crucial in effectively preventing mole damage. There are several methods that can be employed to deter moles, including the use of repellents and barriers, careful plant selection, and companion planting. By taking these preventative steps, gardeners can avoid the need for more drastic and potentially harmful measures, such as trapping or killing. For more information on combating mole damage, check out our article on combating mole damage to garden and orchard.


There are several repellents available that can keep moles away from garden areas. These repellents work by emitting foul odors or vibrations that deter moles from entering the area.

One effective repellent is castor oil, which can be applied to the soil surface in the garden. This oil coating will repel moles and other burrowing animals due to the unpleasant taste and smell.

Another effective repellent is the use of plants that moles dislike, such as daffodils, marigolds, and alliums. These plants can be planted around the perimeter of the garden, creating a natural barrier that moles will not cross.

Ultrasonic mole repellents, which emit high-pitched vibrations that disturb moles’ sensory organs, can also be used to repel moles. These devices can be placed throughout the garden, emitting vibrations that will make it uncomfortable for moles to stay in the area.

It should be noted, however, that repellents are not always 100% effective, and their effectiveness may vary depending on the size of the garden and the level of mole infestation.

In addition to using repellents, gardeners can also take preventative measures such as planting trees and shrubs that are less vulnerable to mole damage, using companion planting techniques, and implementing barriers to prevent moles from entering the garden area.

For more information on preventing and repairing mole damage in your garden, see our related articles on landscape design, plant and tree vulnerability, moles and plant growth, and repair techniques for plants and trees.


One effective way to prevent mole damage to plants and trees is to use barriers. Barriers are physical structures that can prevent moles from accessing an area or digging in certain locations. One type of barrier is a hardware cloth, which is made of steel mesh and can be installed around garden beds, trees, and other vulnerable areas.

Another type of barrier is a gravel or rock border, which can make it difficult for moles to dig by disrupting the soil texture. You can also use mulch to create a barrier around plants and trees, as moles do not typically dig through this material.

Additionally, you may consider using underground fences to prevent moles from accessing certain areas. These fences can be made of materials such as hard plastic or steel and are installed a few inches below the ground surface.

While barriers can be effective in preventing mole damage, it is important to note that they may not completely eliminate the problem. Some moles may still find ways to dig underneath or around the barriers. It is recommended to use barriers in combination with other prevention methods, such as plant selection and companion planting.

Understanding how moles affect the soil health and plant nutrition is another important aspect of mole control. To learn more about this topic, you may check our article on moles, soil health, and plant nutrition.

Plant Selection

Selecting the right plants for your backyard or garden can play a crucial role in preventing mole damage. Here are some tips to keep in mind when selecting plants:

  • Choose plants that moles don’t like: Moles tend to avoid plants with strong aromas, tough textures, and plants with prickly leaves. Some of the plants that moles don’t like include daffodils, alliums, marigolds, and garlic.
  • Plant deeper-rooted plants: Moles primarily feed on insects and grubs that are closer to the surface of the soil. By planting deeper-rooted plants such as shrubs or trees, you make it harder for moles to find their food source and might discourage them from tunneling in that area.
  • Avoid plants that attract moles: Plants that attract moles include plants with shallow roots such as ground covers, liriope, and other types of grasses. By planting these types of plants, you might inadvertently attract moles to your garden or backyard.
  • Consider raised beds: Raised beds are a great option to prevent mole damage. By elevating the soil level, it makes it more difficult for moles to tunnel through the soil and reach plant roots. Raised beds also give gardeners more control over the soil quality and drainage.
  • Rotate your plants: Planting different types of plants each year can prevent the buildup of soil-borne pests and insects that moles feed on. This prevents moles from creating a home in your garden where their food source is easily accessible.

By carefully selecting the plants for your garden and following these tips, you can help prevent mole damage and maintain a healthy and beautiful garden.

Companion Planting

Companion planting is an effective way to deter moles from damaging your plants and trees. This method involves planting certain plants that moles do not like to be around in close proximity to your desirable plants. It’s important to keep in mind that companion planting is not a foolproof method, but it can definitely help minimize mole damage.

Below is a table showing some effective companion plants for deterring moles:

Companion Plants Benefits
Daffodils Produce a toxic alkaloid that moles dislike
Alliums (garlic, onion, chives) Produce a strong smell that repels moles
Marigolds Produce a strong smell that repels moles and certain insects that can attract moles
Fritillarias Produce a strong scent that repels moles
Castor Beans Produce an oil that is toxic to moles and other pests

Remember to plant these companion plants strategically around your garden or yard, focusing on areas where mole activity is most prevalent. For maximum effectiveness, interplant them among your desirable plants and trees. This method can be particularly effective in combination with other control methods, such as repellents and barriers.

Trapping Moles

Trapping Moles
One of the most effective and humane ways to control mole infestations is through trapping. There are several different kinds of traps available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Trapping moles requires patience and persistence, but it can ultimately lead to the removal of the entire mole population from an area. In this section, we will explore the different types of traps and discuss the best practices for placement and baiting.

Kinds of Traps

Once you have identified that moles are present in your garden, trapping them can be an effective way to control their population. There are several types of traps available, each with its own pros and cons. Here are some of the most common kinds of traps:

  • Scissor-jaw traps: These traps feature scissor-like jaws that close on a mole when it triggers the pressure plate. They are effective at killing moles quickly and can be used repeatedly, but they can also pose a risk to non-target animals or curious children who may accidentally set them off.
  • Harpoon traps: These traps work by impaling the mole with a sharp, spear-like device when it triggers the pressure plate. They are also effective at killing moles quickly, but they come with the same risks as scissor-jaw traps.
  • Box traps: These traps use a one-way door to trap the mole inside a box. They are more humane than kill traps and can allow for easy release of the mole into a remote location, but they require daily monitoring and can be less effective if moles are not actively moving through the area.
  • Tunnel traps: These traps are placed directly in the mole’s tunnel and feature spring-loaded jaws that close when the mole triggers the plate. They are effective and can be used repeatedly, but may require more time and effort to set up properly.

It’s important to note that trapping moles should only be done when necessary and with the appropriate permits or licenses. It’s also important to follow all safety guidelines and dispose of any trapped moles in a legal and humane manner.

Trap Placement and Baiting

The success of trapping moles largely depends on the proper placement of the traps and the bait used. Here are some tips to help you trap moles effectively:

Tip Explanation
Locate active tunnels Look for fresh mounds that were recently raised. These are likely to be the active tunnels where moles are actively burrowing.
Identify main travel tunnels Locate the main travel tunnels, which will have more consistent traffic and be wider than the feeding tunnels. These are the best places to set your traps.
Use gloves Moles have a keen sense of smell and will avoid traps that smell like humans. Use gloves when handling traps to reduce human scent.
Bait sparingly Only use a small amount of bait, such as earthworms or grubs. Too much bait can make moles suspicious and they may avoid the trap.
Place traps perpendicular to the tunnel Insert traps perpendicular to the tunnel with the trigger end facing the ground. This ensures that the mole will trip the trigger when it passes through the tunnel.
Cover the trap with a board To prevent sunlight from casting a shadow on the trap, cover it with a board. This will make the trap less conspicuous to the mole.
Check traps daily Check traps daily, and release any non-target animals unharmed. Moles can die from stress quickly, so it’s important to release them immediately after capture.

By following these tips, you can increase your chances of trapping moles and protecting your plants and trees from their destructive behavior.

Killing Moles

Eliminating moles from your garden or lawn may be a last resort, but sometimes it’s necessary to protect your plants and trees from further damage. However, the prospect of killing animals can be perplexing for some. It’s important to understand that moles can quickly reproduce and create an even larger problem, so taking action may be necessary. In this section, we will explore various methods of killing moles, including the use of traps, tunnel gassing, and fumigants.

When to Consider Killing Moles

If you’re considering killing moles, it’s important to understand when it’s appropriate to do so. Killing moles should be a last resort after you’ve exhausted all other options.

Signs that Killing Moles may be Necessary:

Signs Explanation
Extensive Damage If the mole activity is causing significant damage to your lawn or garden, or threatening the health of your plants or trees, then it may be necessary to consider killing moles.
Ineffective Repellents If you have tried several types of repellents with no success, then it may be time to consider more drastic measures.
Reoccurring Mole Activity If moles continue to return to your yard despite all of your efforts to prevent them, then it may be necessary to consider killing them.

When Killing Moles is Not Necessary:

While the above circumstances may warrant killing moles, it’s important to note that there are several situations where killing moles is not necessary or appropriate.

Scenarios Explanation
Minor Damage If the mole activity is minor and not causing significant damage, it’s best to avoid killing the moles.
Natural Pest Control Moles can actually help control pests such as grubs and insects, so if they’re not causing significant damage, it might be best to leave them be.
Ethical Concerns Some people may choose not to kill moles due to ethical concerns related to animal welfare. In this case, there are several humane mole control options available.

Ultimately, the decision to kill moles should not be taken lightly. It’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of various mole control methods and consider whether killing moles is truly necessary in your specific situation.

Kinds of Kill Traps

When it comes to killing moles, there are several types of traps that you can use. Each trap type has its own unique features and advantages. The most common types of kill traps used for moles are:

Trap Type Description Advantages
Scissor-jaw mole trap A trap that crushes the mole’s skull, killing it instantly Effective and humane
Harpoon mole trap A trap that impales the mole and kills it almost instantly Quick and humane
Choker loop mole trap A trap that strangles the mole as it moves through the tunnel Effective and humane

It is important to note that kill traps should be used only as a last resort when other control methods have failed. When using kill traps, it is critical that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and check the traps regularly. Additionally, it is important to dispose of the dead mole properly and safely to prevent attracting other pests or wildlife to the area.

Tunnel Gassing

One of the most effective ways to kill moles is by tunnel gassing, which involves inserting a gas cartridge into the mole’s tunnel system. The gas will fill the tunnels and kill the moles within a few hours. However, this method can be dangerous if not done correctly and should only be attempted by a professional exterminator. Here are the steps involved in tunnel gassing:

  1. Locate the active mole tunnels by flattening them with a shovel or your foot.
  2. Insert the gas cartridge into one of the open ends of the tunnel and seal it with soil.
  3. Connect a hose to the other end of the cartridge and attach the other end of the hose to a gas source, such as a propane tank.
  4. Turn on the gas and let it flow into the tunnel for the recommended amount of time, usually a few hours.
  5. After the recommended time has passed, turn off the gas and remove the hose from the cartridge.
  6. Use a shovel or other tool to break open the sealed end of the tunnel and allow air to circulate.
  7. Wait a few days to allow any remaining gas to dissipate before sealing the tunnel.

It’s important to note that tunnel gassing can be dangerous and is not always effective. Moles may detect the gas and escape through side tunnels or simply avoid the areas where the gas is present. Additionally, gas leaks can be hazardous to humans and pets, so it’s important to follow all safety guidelines and hire a professional if necessary.


Fumigants are a type of pesticide used to kill moles and other pests. They work by releasing a gas that penetrates the mole’s tunnels and suffocates the animals. Fumigants are considered one of the most effective methods of killing moles, but they can also be dangerous to humans and pets if not used properly. It’s important to always read the label and follow instructions carefully when using fumigants.

There are several types of fumigants available on the market, but two of the most common ones are aluminum phosphide and gas cartridges. Aluminum phosphide comes in tablet or pellet form and is inserted into the mole’s tunnel where it reacts with moisture in the soil to produce a toxic gas. Gas cartridges, on the other hand, are placed directly into the mole’s tunnel and release a toxic gas when ignited.

While fumigants can be effective at killing moles, they can also be harmful to other beneficial animals in the soil like earthworms and microorganisms. It’s important to use fumigants sparingly and only as a last resort when other methods have failed.


  • Can provide quick and effective results
  • Do not require handling or disposing of dead animals


  • Can be harmful to other beneficial organisms in the soil
  • Can be dangerous to humans and pets if not used properly
  • Should only be used as a last resort

Examples of Fumigants:

Fumigant Active Ingredient Application Method Effectiveness
Phostoxin Aluminum Phosphide Inserted into mole tunnels in tablet or pellet form Quick and effective
Giant Destroyer Sodium Nitrate and Sulfur Ignited and placed in mole tunnel Quick and effective

It’s important to note that fumigants should only be used by licensed professionals or individuals who have been properly trained in their use. If you’re not comfortable using fumigants, it’s best to seek the advice of a professional pest control service.


In conclusion, effective mole control involves a combination of prevention, trapping, and in some cases, killing. It is important to first understand mole behavior and the signs of damage they cause in order to properly address the issue. Preventative measures such as using repellents, barriers, and selecting the appropriate plants for your garden can help deter moles from entering your yard in the first place.

If preventive methods are not enough, trapping can be an effective and humane way to remove moles from your lawn or garden. Knowing the types of traps available and proper trap placement and baiting techniques is crucial to successfully trapping moles.

In extreme cases, killing moles may be necessary. However, it is important to first consider the potential ecological impact and choose the most humane killing method available. Tunnel gassing and fumigants should only be used by licensed professionals, while kill traps require careful placement and handling.

By taking the necessary steps to prevent and control mole damage, you can protect your garden and trees from harm while respecting the environment and the animals that call it home.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do moles damage plants?

Moledamage plants by tunneling underneath them, uprooting roots, and causing them to dry out or die.

Can moles harm humans?

Moles are not a danger to humans, as they do not bite or attack. They focus on digging tunnels in search of food.

What are some natural ways to repel moles?

Certain plants such as daffodils, alliums, and marigolds are known to repel moles. Other natural methods involve using castor oil mixed with cayenne pepper, or vinegar sprayed around the yard.

What kind of barriers can be effective in preventing mole damage?

A barrier made up of mesh or hardware cloth can be effective in keeping moles out of specific areas of your yard or garden. You can also plant flowers and shrubs in raised garden beds to prevent moles from tunneling under the roots.

Are sonic mole repellents effective?

The effectiveness of sonic mole repellents is unknown, as research has shown varying results. Some homeowners report success with the devices, while others claim they do not work.

What are the advantages of trapping moles?

Trapping moles is a humane method of controlling their population without the use of toxic chemicals. It also allows you to relocate the moles to another area rather than killing them.

How long should you leave a mole trap out before checking it?

It is recommended to check mole traps at least once a day, ideally in the morning when moles are most active. If no moles are caught within a few days, it may be necessary to move the trap to a different location.

What is the quickest way to kill a mole?

A mole can be quickly killed with a scissor trap or a harpoon trap. These traps are designed to snap the mole’s neck instantly upon capture.

How does tunnel gassing work?

Tunnel gassing involves injecting gas into a mole tunnel with a hose or probe. The gas causes the mole to suffocate and die.

What are the dangers of using fumigants to kill moles?

Fumigants can be dangerous to humans and pets if not used properly. They also have the potential to harm beneficial insects and other wildlife in the area.