Why is a mole called a mole
The European mole
The European mole (Talpa europaea) is the only species of mole that is native to Central Europe. Like the hedgehog and the shrew, it is one of the so-called insectivores and, like them, kills many pests. Nevertheless, it is usually not welcomed by hobby gardeners.
The name mole comes from the Middle High German word "moltwerf", which means something like "earth thrower" and refers to the molehills that the mammal creates when creating its tunnels. Since the mole is a protected species, direct control is forbidden, but there are some methods that can be used to get rid of a mole without harming the animal.
The mole in the garden
Garden owners do not like molehills in the lawn and in the flower beds. A young, vital mole can produce around 20 mounds of earth every day. In addition, plant roots can sometimes be damaged by digging. But contrary to popular belief, the mole is not a plant pest, as it only feeds on animals. By throwing up the earth, it even ensures a loose structure and good ventilation of the garden soil. The fine crumbly soil can be used as potting soil.
By the way: Most of the time, the supposed mole burrow is actually the work of a vole. On closer inspection, however, the two can be distinguished quite well: The raised mounds of earth of the moles are usually higher and free of roots or plant debris. The hole is usually in the middle below, while that of the vole is usually a little further on the edge of the pile. The profile of the corridor is also transversely oval, while voles create highly oval corridors. If you are not sure, simply do a so-called dilapidation test: Open the passage at one point and look again the next day. If the passage was closed again, it is a vole.
Drive away moles instead of fighting them
In contrast to the vole, the mole enjoys species protection and must not be directly fought, let alone killed. The insectivores have been among the particularly protected species since 1986. The nature conservation authority only grants a special permit to combat it if, for example, its passage system endangers the safety of a dike. Catching with live traps such as smooth-walled plastic buckets dug in at the aisle is also prohibited, as this is fatal for the mole in most cases. If the catch is not noticed in time, the animal dies of stress or a lack of food.
Nevertheless: Not everyone is happy about a mole as a subtenant in their own garden, because their mounds of earth can deface the entire lawn. But since the small animals are under nature protection, there are not many ways to fight a mole. We'll introduce you to some efficient ways to evict moles.
Expel mole with smells
Because of its well-developed sense organs, the mole quickly feels disturbed by smells, noises and vibrations. This can be used to drive away the unwanted garden dweller. Various household remedies are recommended as odor substances against moles, for example sour milk, dog hair, vinegar essence, crushed arborvitae branches or plant manure from wormwood or nettles. In specialist shops there are also odor-intensive deterrents, for example Mole-Schreck or Mole-Raus.
In fact, alcohol is also an effective and well-tried home remedy to drive a mole out of the garden. The animals find it so uncomfortable that they leave their corridors and avoid the garden in the future. To drive away moles with alcohol, empty alcohol bottles are sufficient. These are inserted into the aisles with the opening facing down. The strong alcohol smell is now spreading rapidly in the cave system. The higher the alcohol content of the spirits, the more sensitive the mole is to the smell. Old rags soaked in alcohol and placed in the aisles in several places are even more efficient. The effective radius is about three to five meters.
Another home remedy for getting rid of moles that most of us have in store in our kitchen is garlic. Not only vampires are sensitive to the smell of garlic, moles are also not enthusiastic about the hot, aromatic spice bulbs. The cloves of garlic are simply crushed and stuck deep into the molehills. The unwelcome subtenant will then quickly run away.
By the way: With all preparations it is important that the odor sources are evenly distributed over the duct system. To do this, you open a corridor every few meters and pour in the substances. Depending on the weather, the odor sources should be renewed at least once a week until the mole does not raise any more new heaps.
Chasing away the mole with sound waves
The mole can also be driven out of the garden with acoustic methods. The classics are bottles dug into the ground at a slight angle, which make a sound when there is wind. Small, self-made wind turbines, which emit a squeaking sound, whose vibrations are transmitted directly to the ground via a metal post, are also used successfully. Other chimes, in which, for example, old spoons hung on strings hit the metal stand, are also suitable for driving moles away. The effect of ultrasound devices from specialist retailers is controversial - but there are many reports on the Internet from amateur gardeners who have successfully used these devices against moles. Frequent mowing with a petrol lawnmower - about once or twice a week - also keeps the mole from devastating the green carpet, at least during the lawn season.
Anyone who lets a robotic lawnmower take care of the lawn also has a good chance of permanently driving the troublemaker away. Various manufacturers and robotic lawnmower owners have made the experience that the lawn was suddenly free of molehills after using the electronic helpers. The low noise level and vibrations in combination with the long operating times apparently lead to the annoying diggers giving up their ancestral territory.
A tried and tested but time-consuming method to drive a mole away is to immediately sludge the freshly raised molehills with the garden hose. Those who do this consistently induce the mole to leave their ancestral territory and look for another place to stay. If you have a cat, you usually don't have to worry about moles in the garden: they either "catch them in the act" or feel threatened and migrate to other areas on their own.
You can find both positive and negative testimonials for every method of eviction on the Internet. The negative experiences are often based on the fact that the burrower is not a mole, but a vole. The rodents are less sensitive to noise and bad smells than moles.
This is what the mole looks like
The mole has a compact, strong body, large forefeet, barely recognizable eyes and a fur made of fine wool - so it is perfectly equipped for life as a tunnel builder underground. Typical of the 12 to 15 centimeter small mammal with a two to five centimeter long tail are its forefeet, which has been transformed into grave shovels. With his soles pointing outwards and five toes, he shovels his gears free while his compact body rotates forwards. He pushes the loosened earth backwards out of the corridors to the surface of the earth, which creates the unpopular molehills in the garden.
In order to be able to move more easily through the narrow passageways or even to roll backwards, its gray-black fur has no line. Moles smell and hear very well and perceive the finest vibrations through their whiskers. Their eyes are less well developed and can only distinguish between light and dark. Blind - as many assume because of the widespread expression - moles are not, however. Their highly sensitive, proboscis-like snout with whiskers and excellent hearing are ideal for tracking down earthworms and grubs in the dark burrow. These are much more helpful for orientation and the perception of vibrations than a sharp look. With its 44 pointed teeth, the carnivore can cut up its prey.
Adult moles weigh up to 120 grams and often move 20 times their body weight when digging the passages. In order to get enough oxygen underground, the mole's blood can bind twice as much as that of an equally large, aboveground mammal.
The mole's way of life and habitat
The fact that the mole is rarely seen is due to the fact that the semi-blind animal hunts and lives in its underground passage system and rarely leaves this habitat. Due to his physique and his sensory organs, he is perfectly adapted to life underground. It is both diurnal and nocturnal and does not hibernate. He switches from rest to activity phases every four to five hours.
Originally moles lived only in forest soils, but nowadays they can be found in all loose and not too dry soils and lawns with sufficient food sources. The underground corridor system is always structured in the same way: It consists of a living chamber padded with grass and leaves, which also serves as a nest, as well as running and hunting corridors close to the surface. Furthermore, there are ventilation ducts that lead almost vertically upwards. The mole often covers more than a kilometer underground per day.
The extent of the corridors differs depending on the sex: the tunnel system of a female usually does not cover more than 2,000 square meters. Males are much more active and often cross an area of 6,000 square meters with their corridors. In winter, moles migrate to deeper soil layers. Once the ground thaws again, they appear to be particularly active as most of the prey then resides in the upper layers of the soil.
If it is absolutely necessary, moles can also overcome streams and ponds thanks to their innate ability to swim. The shy loners only do this in exceptional cases, when a new habitat has to be found.
Despite its bad reputation, the presence of a mole in the garden has its advantages. The animal is an important and, above all, extremely voracious pest-devourer. Since the mole is very active, it needs around 20 to 50 grams of food every day - almost half of its own body weight. If he has to go without food for more than 12 to 24 hours, he will starve to death. The mole mainly feeds on earthworms, but not all of them are eaten immediately. Sometimes moles paralyze the worms with one bite and then store them alive in their pantries until they are consumed. With these supplies they can get through the winter, during which the food supply is less. In addition, insects and small snails as well as the larvae of the black weevil, cockchafer and meadow snake, which it tracks down in the hunt, are on the menu of the mole. He completely avoids garden plants.
Mating and offspring
Outside of the mating season in spring, the mole lives mainly as a solitary animal. Even males and females fight each other when they first meet. The females ready to conceive reveal their locations by hissing noises and the males briefly leave their territory. After around four weeks of gestation, the females give birth to three to six naked young, which are suckled for two months, sexually mature after six months and fully grown after twelve months. Depending on the weather, up to two litters per year are possible. The natural life expectancy of a mole is around three to five years. However, many young animals become victims of predators when they are driven from their mother's den and move above ground in search of their own territory.
Natural enemies of the mole
The mole has many natural enemies, such as the buzzard, barn owl, gray heron, fox, stone marten, weasel, weasel and polecat. Since it rarely comes to the surface of the earth, it is well protected from them. Only the little mouse weasel occasionally invades the mole's den. Dogs and cats also catch and kill moles, but do not eat them. Since young animals look for new habitats very early on and cannot move particularly quickly on the surface of the earth, they are unfortunately often victims of road traffic. If you have a lot of moles or voles in your garden, you should create hiding places for predators, for example piles of stones, hedges or hides for birds of prey. In this way an equilibrium is established over time.
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