Boom in Mole Population

PUBLISHED: 15:31 26 November 2010 | UPDATED: 15:50 20 February 2013

Mole Hole!

Mole Hole!

They say that when most of the animal kingdom has been wiped out, the cockroaches will be left as masters of the universe. That may be out of date.

They say that when most of the animal kingdom has been wiped out, the cockroaches will be left as masters of the universe. That may be out of date. They will face stiff competition from the moles.

At first, I thought this was personal. Every morning, I would look out the window and see yet another patch of grass neatly piled high with soil. The moles were obviously preparing the ground for the dandelions to take over come April, part of the dandelion-led conspiracy to send me bonkers.

But they're everywhere. All over the farms of the Golden Valley. All over the county (Leominster Town Football Club were defeated by them). And all over the country. A naturalist in Northumberland was startled to spot one burrowing into a sand dune. I was in Suffolk the other week: it's meant to be flat; now it's hilly.

They may be all over the world. I was also in Switzerland recently, and there, amid the Alps, was a range of mini-Alps...

I believe that all God's children have a place in the choir but some singers are harder to love than others. Ray Styles, a Hereford pest controller, says customers ring him very calmly if they have a wasp's nest in their loft, but are hopping mad if a mole is wrecking a lovingly-tended lawn. Farmers hate molehills in a field intended for mowing, because the soil clogs their machinery and then gets into the silage, which can spread disease.

Kindly animal-lovers say that moles aerate the soil and kill pests like wireworms (as well as friendly earthworms). And that the hills provide a lovely source of rich humus, good enough for growing tomatoes. Eighteenth-century Jacobite rebels would secretly drink a toast to "the little gentleman in black velvet" because their enemy King William III died after his horse stumbled on a molehill. But I don't know much about wireworms, and have no strong feelings about William III.

So what's going on? The cold winter doesn't seem to be relevant, although it might force the moles to burrow deeper and make their hills hillier. The consensus answer is that it's all to do with the government and, by extension, Brussels.

In 2006, following a European directive, DEFRA clamped down on the sale of strychnine, the poison of choice for old-fashioned drawing-room murders ("Do drink your tea, my dear") and for eradicating moles. The loss of this nasty but effective remedy is the most obvious explanation for the current population boom.

There are dozens of other remedies suggested for discouraging moles. Traps, mothballs, creosote, Jeyes fluid, smoke tablets, toy windmills stuck in the ground to create vibrations, milk bottles stuck in the ground to do something-or-other, a spade dug in at each end of the run (if you can work out where the run is)...Or you can plant stinking hellebore, caper spurge or golden garlic.

The problem with these methods is that they work partially, spasmodically or not at all. What they might do is put off the moles and make them go elsewhere. If they have ruined your front lawn, they will take the hint and ravage the back instead. Or go next door, which will make you very popular.

"You can control them to some extent with traps," says Ray Styles, "but if you're faced with a farm of 200 acres that's got 100 acres of moles, it's a bit of a daunting task."

So maybe we'll have to live with them. According to one expert, "They are solitary creatures and only meet to mate," which makes them sound like the average human married couple.

If you are determined to get rid of them, my advice is to wait for a nice day, invite all your friends for a party on the mole-infested lawn, then tell them to jump up and down for half an hour. That should scare all the moles away.

For about a fortnight.

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