Underground stays Mr Mole, and digs himself another hole: Creosote, Lambrettas, leeks, buttermilk . . . all novel ideas for banishing the burrowing pest. But, Anna Pavord regrets, none seems infallible

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THERE was a vividly varied response to the question of ridding a garden of moles (Independent, 19 September). I have learnt to expect no less from readers of this newspaper. The difficulty lay in discovering a method that had proved infallible. A suggestion put up by one reader would be slapped down by the next, who offered a different one, only to be shot down in flames by the experiences of the third, and so on.

Several readers, including Glenda Vogelpoel, of Highbury, north London, suggested burying empty bottles in the runs. The noise of the wind blowing over the tops of the bottles is supposed to unnerve moles, but as many as recommended this trick said it did not work. The caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyrus), praised by Roger Reade, of Hutton, among others, proved equally ineffective for most.

Roger Leitch, of Dundee, sent a 17th- century deterrent. 'Take green leekes, garlicke, or onyons, and chopping them grossely, thrust it into the holes, and the very fume or savour thereof will so astonish and amaze the moales that they will presently forsake the earth, and falling into a trance you may take them up with your hands.'

Muriel Georgopoulou, a 'vicarious gardener' in Athens, also suggested the onion treatment, but Major MacRae, of Blairgowrie, had already tried it and found it wanting. Mrs Eaton, of Pitscottie in Fife, found another old recipe, this time involving a soured mixture of whey and buttermilk, to pour in mole runs. 'The smell is supposed to do the rest,' she said, but had not had an opportunity to try it herself.

Deterrents seem to depend on which of the mole's senses you feel to be the most susceptible. Michael Turland, of Kettering, and David Robinson, of Banbury, both suggested burying the tune mechanism from a musical greetings card. James Edgar, of Worcester, was thinking along the same lines, but felt a few hours of Radio 1 or 2 each day would do the trick.

Paul Dunwell-Schwyter wrote from Switzerland recalling a 'sobering demonstration' by his father of the effect that a Lambretta SX 200 can have on moles. 'You park the scooter beside the freshest run and rev up the engine while in neutral. It's not even necessary to give it full throttle to achieve the desired effect.'

Whether it was the noise or the fumes that did the trick, he does not say.

Creosote and Jeyes fluid featured in several readers' accounts of successful forays against moles. Creosote plus old socks was infallible in the experience of Ms Shenstone, of Coventry. John Clarke, of Bury St Edmunds, preferred Jeyes fluid followed by a hosepipe flood.

Flooding certainly shifts moles in situ, as both Trevor Roberts, of Warwick, and David Pierce, of Church Knowle in Dorset, have found. 'I introduced a garden hose through a freshly dug mole-hill and gave periodic injections of water,' writes Mr Pierce. 'The mole was persistent in returning despite the gradual degradation of its runs. On about the third day . . . I turned the tap full on. The mole had no option but to surface to escape the water, and was safely transported to pastures new.'

In the absence of any single totally foolproof mole deterrent, the promised bottle of wine goes to Leslie Jerman, of Epping in Essex, for a brilliant treatise on methods of discouraging moles. His neighbours, he said, had tried mothballs, paraffin, creosote-soaked rags, cods' heads, smoke bombs, wine bottles and spurge plants, all to no avail.

Fakenham racecourse ordered 1,000 spurge plants to save the expensive fetlocks of its racehorses. But, says the encyclopaedic Mr Jerman, it did not trouble the moles one bit. He describes an experiment by the Ministry of Agriculture, coating worms with gum acacia as a poison, but the moles scraped off the gum by dragging the worms through their feet. Mr Jerman also gave the name of the last man in England to make moleskin waistcoats: Cyril Barnett of 54 Bartholomew Close, London EC1. He retired in 1990.