Tuesday, June 6, 2017 By: Ask A Master Gardener

Moles and Gophers

Dealing with Moles and Gophers
Bill Sevier: Ask a Master Gardener
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Q: Something is creating tunnels and piles of soil in my yard. Is it moles or gophers and what should I do? B.L., Broken Arrow
A: There are some basic facts about these pests that will help you sort this out. Moles create superficial tunnels in your lawn that you can easily see and depress with your foot. They sometimes produce small mounds of fresh soil but not usually. Moles dental structure is such that they cannot eat plants or roots. They are not rodents but insectivores and eat only insects and worms. Moles are territorial, and a large lawn with significant damage may have only one to three moles.
Gophers make tunnels deep into the ground that almost never can be seen in the lawn. They make several mounds of fresh soil often over a foot wide shaped like a kidney. Gophers create colonies, perhaps 10-20 gophers, in a large lawn. They can and do eat the roots of plants and may be destructive.
So if you have tunnels you can see easily, you have moles. If there are several mounds of fresh soil, you have gophers.
Control of gophers is outlined in detail in OSU’s fact sheet “Controlling Pocket Gophers,” and good information about moles and control may be found in the University of Arkansas Extension fact sheet, FSA-9095. Read these before you get started.
Moles are a challenge to control. Because of this, many repellent-type products are available, most of which are thought to be ineffective. One exception is castor oil, which may have some short-term repellent activity, but studies about effectiveness have been inconclusive.
Moles are more common in well-tended lawns. Well-watered and fertilized lawns have more earthworms and, therefore, will better support a mole population. Moles’ diet consists mainly of earthworms and not white grubs as once thought. Do not use insecticides labeled for grubs to attempt to control moles.
The most effective way to eliminate moles is to use one of the various traps on the market. Another treatment thought to be effective is poison gel worms. These are similar in texture to the plastic worms used for fishing but contain poison.
Garden tips
·        Bermuda lawns will benefit from up to 2-5 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 square feet in divided applications from now until the end of August. Apply the first application now. Do not fertilize fescue lawns in summer; it will make them susceptible to heat and disease damage. The next recommended fertilization for fescue is in September and October.
·        Remain alert for insect damage. Add spider mites to the list. Foliage of most plants becomes pale and speckled; juniper foliage turns a pale yellowish color. Shake a branch over white paper and watch for tiny specks that crawl. Watch for first-generation fall webworm.
·        Some pests can be hand-picked without using a pesticide. Do not spray if predators such as lady beetles are present. Spraying insecticides early in the morning or late in the day will avoid spraying honeybees and other essential pollinators.


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