The mole [Talpa europea

The mole is found in all parts of the British Isles except Ireland.

Damage. This dark-grey, 15 cm long mammal, weighing about 90 g, uses its shovel-shaped feet to create an underground system 5-20 cm deep and up to 0.25 ha in extent. The tunnel contents are excavated into mole hills (see Figure 14.2). The resulting root disturbance to grassland and other crops causes wilting, and may result in serious losses.

Life cycle. In its dark environment, the solitary mole moves, actively searching for earthworms, slugs, millipedes and insects. About 5 hours of activity is followed by about 3 hours of rest. Only in spring do males and females meet. In June, one litter of two to seven young ones are born in a grass-lined may achieve some success.

Mole The Grass
Figure 14.2 Mole hill in grass

underground nest, often located underneath a dense thicket. Young moles often move above ground, reach maturity at about 4 months, and live for about 4 years.

Control. Natural predators of the mole include tawny owls, weasels and foxes. The main control methods are trapping and poison baiting, usually carried out between October and April, when tunnelling is closer to the surface. Amateur or professional horticulturists can use pincer or half barrel traps placed in fresh tunnels and inserted carefully so as not to greatly change the tunnel diameter. The soil must be replaced so that the mole sees no light from its position in the tunnel. The mole enters the trap, is caught and starves to death. In serious mole infestations, trained operators use strychnine salts mixed with earthworms at the rate of 2 g ingredient per 100 worms. Single worms are carefully inserted into inhabited tunnels at the rate of 25 worms per hectare. DEFRA authority is required before purchasing strychnine, a highly dangerous chemical, which must be stored with care.

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