Updated On

July 3, 2024

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    Moles, with their bizarre features, significantly impact homeowners by causing various types of lawn damage. They create visible mounds and mole tunnels in your lawn, just beneath the soil, which appear as raised ridges or trails across the yard. Mole control can mitigate this mole activity and damage.

    If moles are digging underground tunnels, you have a mole problem. These critters disrupt the roots of grass and shrubs, causing uprooted plants or dried-out patches. As they create new tunnels, they aerate the soil, which can be beneficial, but a large tunnel system may make the soil loose and uneven. This tunnel system interferes with mowing and damages irrigation systems and underground utilities.

    These diggers pose a significant challenge in maintaining a beautiful, healthy yard. In this article, I’ll discuss mole behavior and what they eat in the wild. With this information, you will be better equipped to handle any moles you encounter on your property.

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    The Average Mole Diet

    Moles, though classified as mammals, do not fit into the categories of carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores. Instead, they are insectivores, and their diet can benefit your yard. While earthworms are their clear favorite, moles also enjoy snacking on a variety of invertebrates found in the soil. This includes grubs, millipedes, centipedes, insect larvae, crickets, and slugs. Essentially, anything that crosses a mole’s path as it tunnels through the soil can become part of its meal.

    To see a mole in action as it preys on its food, watch the video below showcasing a mole eating worms.

    What Is an Insectivore?

    An insectivore is an animal that eats only insects. Technically, this is a subset of the carnivorous diet pattern. It is a smaller, distinguished category because insectivores only eat the “meat” of insects.

    Moles have a few different favorite foods, all found in the soils where the mole spends the vast majority of its three year lifespan.

    Earthworms are a primary staple in the diet of moles, providing them with essential nutrients and serving as a significant food source.

    Centipedes and millipedes are also part of the mole’s diet, offering additional protein and nutrients as they forage through the soil.

    Insect larvae, such as beetles and ants, are another common food source for moles, providing them with a diverse range of nutrients.

    • Earthworms
    • Centipedes/millipedes
    • Insect larvae

    A Mole’s Favorite Food: Earthworms

    Anyone who has ever played out in the dirt as a kid has probably come into contact with at least one earthworm at some point. They’re distinctive in that they have long, dark-orange or even reddish bodies broken into up to 150 segments.

    Earthworms are widely regarded as the ideal meal for a mole. It has been reported that moles will regularly dine on earthworms throughout the day, as well as stash some in their burrows for later.

    Earthworms also serve as the mole’s primary form of hydration due to the high content of water within the segments of the worm’s body.

    Because moles spend so much energy each day, they need a plentiful food source. The soil where moles burrow is rich with earthworms, so the mole never lacks for food.

    The Crunch of Insects

    While earthworms are the clear favorite food, moles also like to snack on invertebrates in the dirt. These snacks can include, but are not limited to:

    • Grubs
    • Millipedes
    • Centipedes
    • Insect larvae
    • Crickets
    • Slugs

    Basically, anything that gets in the mole’s way as it swims” through the soil can become dinner.

    Why Do Moles Eat This Way?

    Moles, despite their burly underground presence, aren’t carnivores like many might assume. Instead, their unique physical characteristics and behavioral patterns shed light on their preference for a diet rich in insects and earthworms.

    Their wide, flat front feet and cylindrical snouts are tailored for digging rather than chasing prey, making them skilled at catching and eating their favored meals. This dietary choice fuels their constant digging. Moles consume nearly their entire body weight in food each day. These traits define the feeding habits of moles, making insects and worms their meal of choice.

    Physical Characteristics of Moles

    To understand WHY moles favor earthworms and other invertebrates so much, it’s important to know a little bit about their bodies. Examining the appearance of a mole sheds light on this preference.

    The mole’s front feet are more wide than long, and they are stuck to the sides of the mole’s body. This seriously limits a mole’s ability to “catch” prey in the traditional sense.

    This is where the importance of having a snout comes in.

    The snout of most types of moles is cylindrical and protracted in front of its face. This snout is the perfect size and shape to hold an earthworm in place while consumption can take place.

    Think of a mole’s snout like you would an elephant’s — almost like a hand to assist with taking in food.

    The outlier in the mole family in terms of using the snout to its advantage is the star-nosed mole — an otherworldly looking creature with a star-looking collection of tentacles where a snout would normally be.

    These superstars — no pun intended — of the burrows use their alien-like snouts to grip and basically absorb anything edible faster than the human eye can see.

    Behavioral Patterns

    Moles are not party animals.

    In fact, they spend most of the three or so years that they’re alive below the ground. They live mostly alone in burrows they dig for themselves. If they DO reach the surface of the dirt, it’s either mating season or purely accidental.

    Worms, slugs, larvae and other invertebrates are plentiful in the dirt where the mole spends nearly its entire lifespan.

    This food supply is delivered right into the mole’s mouth via its snout with minimal effort and almost no resistance, which contributes heavily to its dietary patterns.

    Voracious Appetite

    Moles have a voracious appetite, they eat almost their entire body weight each day.

    Moles, while extremely antisocial, are not sedentary animals. They dig the tunnel networks in which they live nearly every waking moment, and can actually burrow up to 100 feet per day if the soil is moist.

    All that exercise means that your average mole is going to need to fuel up as often as possible.

    Insects and worms found in the soil are perfect for this — a mole can simple chomp on whatever is handy and get the energy it needs to keep digging.

    Will Moles Deviate From This Diet?

    It’s normal to wonder what would happen if you tried to feed a mole something different. After all, moles in captivity will eat frogs, mutton, and even cheese with no qualms whatsoever.

    If you’re trying to lure a mole out of your yard, should you use some of the popular methods floating around the web?

    Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones.

    Here’s the catch — peanut butter can lure a variety of pests, and along with peppermint oil, it’s considered a top choice for pest control. However, moles are an exception as they are not attracted to it.

    Because this animal has evolved to crave a very specific insectivore diet, its tastes simply don’t include that of nuts or sugar. Also, its habitat isn’t conducive to a peanut butter bait. Most vermin and rodents can easily sniff out the distinct aroma of peanut butter and run toward a dollop of it because they live out in the open.

    Moles, on the other hand, are subterranean, which means they dwell below ground. You can’t exactly shove a dollop of peanut butter in the dirt and expect that a mole will smell it and be attracted to it.

    There’s a ton of internet fodder that you can effectively kill moles in your yard with Juicy Fruit gum.

    The myth goes like this — if you cut up strips of Juicy Fruit or a similar off-brand and place the strips within a mole’s tunnel system, the mole will eat it and become constipated, ultimately dying from waste buildup.

    This is false as juicy fruit does not kill moles. This is for a few reasons.

    • A mole isn’t attracted to the smell of gum, and would probably treat it like a foreign object. The gum would register as inedible via the nerve endings in their snouts, and the mole would pass it by.
    • A human scent in a mole’s tunnel is grounds for the mole to pack up and tunnel somewhere else in the yard. For this reason, the mole would probably never get to the gum.
    • If the mole DID ingest the gum, it would be purely accidental. Whether or not the gum would work to constipate and kill the mole is unproven, and should be taken with a grain of salt.

    Another popular myth floating around the web is that dish soap can effectively kill a mole.

    This is inaccurate once again, as dish soap does not kill moles.

    • Many internet searches actually refer to mole crickets instead of moles, which can lead to a lot of confusion.
    • The mole crickets actually don’t die because of the dish soap, but they rise to the surface due to the change in the soil with its presence.

    HOW THIS CAN WORK FOR MOLES: Theoretically, applying a dish soap and water solution to your soil can make the resident earthworms rise in the same way that mole crickets surface.

    By cutting off or drastically reducing the food source of a mole tunneling through your yard, you can starve it, or at least force it to go burrow somewhere else.

    What Do Moles Eat in the Garden?

    Having a mole in your garden doesn’t necessarily mean waking up to half-eaten plants every morning. Contrary to popular belief, moles don’t dine on plant roots. Instead, their voracious appetite for insects drives them to tunnel relentlessly underground, wreaking havoc on delicate root systems and creating those infamous mole hills that dot your lawn. By learning how moles’ burrowing habits impact your garden’s flora, you can discover what can be done about it.

    Destroyed Root Systems

    Moles have been said to damage important root families with their constant activity underground.

    While it’s commonly assumed that this damage is caused by their incessant snacking, it’s actually the act of burrowing itself that’s causing the damage.

    Did You Know

    Moles don’t eat plant roots, but burrow around them, which destroys gardens.

    These weakened roots can harm the trees, shrubs, or plants to which they’re attached above the soil, and lead to soft, eroded patches of dirt.

    Wiped-Out Grasses

    The phrase “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill” originated from the common sight of molehills dotting the landscape, which can make a minor issue seem larger than it is.

    If you’ve ever had a mole on your property, you are fully educated on the signs of moles in the yard. You’ll know all about mounds of dirt pushed up to the surface of the ground, dotting the landscape of your grass in ugly little hills.

    In addition to these mole hills, you might see a snaking of dirt like a river system spread out across your grass.

    Moles do not eat plants. It’s commonly believed that a mole will eat through the grass from above to get to the soil below, but this is actually incorrect. What they’re doing is tunneling so furiously that the loose soil is excavated and sits along the grass.

    The Bottom Line About Moles and Their Diet

    Moles, with their unique diet and burrowing habits, significantly impact lawns and root systems. Though there’s a ton of speculation to the contrary, moles are some of the pickiest eaters in the mammal kingdom. Their preference for insects and invertebrates means they rarely eat plants, but their constant tunneling can disrupt and weaken roots. This leads to damaged trees, shrubs, and patches of eroded soil.

    Understanding these behaviors helps homeowners manage and minimize the effects of moles in their gardens, for healthier and more resilient plant life.

    Managing a mole problem requires a clear understanding of their dietary preferences and burrowing activities. By recognizing that moles primarily seek out earthworms, grubs, and other invertebrates, you can take measures to protect your garden. Effective mole control, combined with a knowledge of their habits, allows for better preservation of your lawn and garden, maintaining its beauty and health despite the presence of these industrious diggers.

    If you’re looking for professional pest control help, use the tool below to get estimates from local professionals:

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Do moles eat grubs?

    Yes, moles do consume grubs, but it is a misconception that grubs are the primary attraction for moles in lawns. In reality, earthworms are their main food source, and moles can thrive in lawns that do not have grubs.

    What do moles do to your lawn?

    Moles damage your lawn by digging holes and tunnels. These tunnels damage the roots of plants.

    What attracts moles?

    Moles are drawn to yards with abundant food sources and suitable tunneling conditions.

    To reduce their food supply, use products that control lawn insects or plant repellent plants like castor bean, narcissus, or Euphorbia lathris. Moles favor moist, soft soil for tunneling and are commonly found in areas rich in organic matter.

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Ed Spicer

    Ed Spicer

    Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management.

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    Laurie Engle

    Expert Writer & Reviewer

    Laurie Engle is a freelance writer who provides insights to homeowners on topics such as the home warranty industry, relocation issues, and real estate trends. As a licensed Realtor since 2001 Laurie has acquired extensive expertise in dealing with home warranty companies and navigating the intricacies of the real estate market. In addition to her commitment to helping clients with their home buying and selling needs, she maintains a sharp awareness of market dynamics, including property values, interest rates, and local regulations.

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