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Taming the mighty mole

They may be small, but homeowners across the country will attest: moles and voles are most definitely mighty. Silently and stealthily, these elusive furry pests wreak havoc on lawns and gardens across America. Rarely seen by humans, the moles work underground, leaving unsightly tunnels and holes - and disgruntled homeowners - in their wake.

As outdoor pests that pose no serious threat to houses, people or pets, moles have been largely ignored by the scientific community. However, for the millions of lawn and garden enthusiasts who wage war against these pests, moles are serious business. Urban legend remedies range from the benign (chewing gum or hot peppers) to the downright dangerous (explosives).

While none of these legends have actually proven to repel moles, help is on the way. Sweeney's, the leading manufacturer of mole control products for homeowners, has recently redoubled its efforts to study moles in order to create new products and new technology to add to consumers' mole arsenals.

"Our research so far has shown that there is no single solution to mole control," says Stewart Clark, technical director at Sweeney's. "Our advice to homeowners is to try multiple products, and be patient. If you are persistent, you will eventually be successful. But you'll probably need to experiment with a few tactics to see what works for you."

To help homeowners through the process, Sweeney's has established a mole control hotline which gives consumers direct access to mole control experts. "Getting rid of moles is truly part science, part art," says Clark, who offers the following tips:

• Know the mole. Moles live underground and rarely come to the surface. They eat almost 100 percent of their body weight every day. They create tunnels to search for food and can create up to 100 feet of new tunnels per day. These tunnels are what destroy lawns, and they can range from long, straight tunnels to "volcano" tunnels that can go as deep as three feet underground. Mating season is in early spring, so expect to see the most activity then.

•Make a plan. This phase involves detective work. The goal is to identify which "runs" or tunnels are active. For this, you'll need a broom handle for poking holes and small yard markers such as spray paint, flags or even plastic forks. First, poke holes into the tunnels and then flag them with your marker system. If your hole has been repaired by the mole after 24 to 48 hours, you know you have an active infestation.

•Master the mole. Moles work quickly, and you should notice "repaired" areas where the mole has either plugged up the hole or created a new "volcano" mound in a deep tunnel area. If there has been no activity, the mole likely moved on to a new area or died. In areas of activity, bait the tunnel by removing the excess dirt to expose the tunnel opening. Place Sweeney's Poison Peanuts, using the product's special cone-shaped container, deep inside the hole, to ensure it reaches the mole. Carefully re-cover the hole with dirt.

•Persistence will pay off.If phase one of treatment does not appear to work, it is time to use another type of product. Try Sweeney's Sonic Mole Spikes�, which emit a penetrating sound that is irritating to moles and gophers. Other treatment options include liquid repellant products that can be attached to a hose for easy application and granular repellent products that can be applied directly from a shaker bag.

One more alternative is a mole trap, which is similar to a mousetrap. As the mole moves through the tunnel, it pushes upward on the trap and trips it. The traps are effective because it's a mole's natural instinct to reopen obstructed passageways.

"Every infestation is different, so different treatments may be required. However, Sweeney's is committed to the ongoing study of mole and gopher behavior," says Clark, who heads up research in both a controlled laboratory and in the field. "Right now, getting rid of these pests requires patience and a willingness to experiment. In the future, we hope to unlock the key to what will help homeowners solve their mole problems quickly and easily."

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