Bit of a non-news day today, sorry – RB
Wet summer leads to mole explosion in British gardens
Nick Collins, Telegraph, Sep 9 2012
Britain’s gardeners have already endured a miserable summer, with torrential rain turning lawns into paddy fields and decimating fruit and vegetable plots. But experts have warned that the weather has brought another nightmare for proud horticulturalists: a plague of moles. An explosion in mole numbers threatens to turn thousands of lawns into mountain ranges overnight, uprooting prized flowers and burying manicured turf beneath unsightly mounds of soil. Soggy weather in late spring and early summer created ideal breeding conditions for the garden pests, softening the ground for males to dig tunnels just below the surface in search of mates. A recent survey found that in one area, Basingstoke, Hants, signs of moles such as hills or tunnels had been spotted in 12% of all gardens. Peter Crowden, of Rutland Pest Control, said:
Normally in summer when it is hot and dry the worms go deeper and the moles go back to their natural habitat in the woods and hedgerows. This year, because it has been so wet, the worms have come to the surface and the moles have done the same. Cool, damp conditions throughout the summer months kept the ground moist, making it easy for the creatures to burrow in search of worms and insects to eat. Now, with millions of baby moles born over the past few weeks across Britain, gardeners can only brace themselves for another onslaught on their lawns and borders. The trouble with the juveniles is they do not use existing runs and they are looking for new territories, so it is very difficult to catch them at this time of year. You have got to put traps in hedge bottoms where the moles are sleeping and resting. Putting the traps in the middle of the garden is useless at this time of year. Gardeners often struggle to get rid of moles without the help of experts because they do not tackle the root cause of the problem. I have seen bottles in the ground with the wind blowing across them, little windmills, mole vibrators, all sorts of things. But the key to getting rid of moles is getting rid of the worms. If people have got moss and weeds on their grass, they need to weed it or kill it. That is a good way to get rid of the worms. Good garden husbandry will do away with your moles.
Gardeners are permitted to kill moles as pests but, under the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996, must do so in a “humane way”, meaning they should not cause unnecessary suffering. Beating and asphyxiating moles to death are banned, but other methods of extermination such as traps, gas or ferrets are considered acceptable by law. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals claims most people will be incapable of killing an animal without “unnecessary suffering” and recommends the use of vets or pest control experts to ensure laws are not breached. A spokesman for the RSPB, which originally conducted the survey to see how the weather is affecting garden birds, said the wet conditions have also caused a rise in earthworms, which has provided a boost for blackbirds and thrushes as well as moles. Increased numbers of slugs and snails are also proving helpful to hedgehogs, frogs, toads and grass snakes, the RSPB said. But while adult birds were thriving, the survey found that the cold and wet start to the summer had a harmful impact on young bird populations. Numbers of thrush, blackbird, song thrush and robin chicks all down on the previous year, with cold weather at the start of the breeding season making it harder for adult birds to find food for their chicks, and chillier conditions affecting species like blackbirds and thrushes whose nests are exposed to the elements.