by Gene Owens
As any Southern boy can tell you, moles are elusive little varmints, hard to catch and not much fun to play with.
What Southern boys may not have known in my day was that Juicy Fruit gum will do to moles what Kryptonite does to Superman.
My source for this is Russell Ladd, now retired from an insurance agency in Mobile, Ala., who went on a vendetta against moles after they played havoc with the St. Augustine grass in his yard.
Ladd advanced his Juicy Fruit solution to the mole problem after he read a column in the old-folks section of his local newspaper about efforts to control the little pests.
“I am the Captain of our neighborhood Mole Patrol,” he wrote to the columnist. “The moles literally took over our front yard and a berm on the side which we built to reduce the rain runoff from flooding our neighbor's carport. It can be a neighborhood problem, as they cross pavement and asphalt.”
Ladd said he tried everything from poison to smoke bombs to drive the moles away.
“Our front yard looked like the Fourth of July when I set off the smoke treatment,” he said. But the moles held their noses and hung on.
Then an entomologist with the Auburn University Extension Service recommended Juicy Fruit gum.
Now, said Ladd, “I buy the 20 pack at Walmart for $2, unwrap a piece, keep it as free of human scent as possible, make a finger hole in the run, place half a stick in the run and cover it as best I can. I try to place as many pieces as I can, or until I get bored, or move on to another project, several times each year, winter and summer.”
“It seems to keep them under control,” he told me.
They dig their little tunnels across the yard, pushing up the ground as they go, and sometimes making humps in Granny’s normally smooth mound of verbena.
They slurp up earthworms and terrorize the grubs that lurk among the grass roots. But so far as I know, I’ve never been harmed by a mole, and I’ve always considered him a challenge, not a pest. I’ve tried many times to catch one as a pet, but succeeded only once. The mole died in captivity a day or two later.
But apparently, the little animal is a nuisance to gardeners – especially older gardeners who spend their golden years trying to cultivate the immaculate gardens they couldn’t have back when their kids were running unfettered through the gladiolas, followed by dogs who loved to dig them up just to wallow in the damp soil.
Such gardeners don’t want moles rumpling their flower beds.
A casual surf on the Internet informed me that moles can also undermine sidewalks and other foundations. A number of people recommended the Juicy Fruit approach. Others said it wouldn’t work.
Why would Juicy Fruit deter moles better than Doublemint or Spearment? Why is the Wrigley’s brand more effective than, say, Chiclets or Dentyne?
I suppose you’d have to ask a mole.
I learned that moles stake out their underground territory about the same way dogs stake out there above-ground domain – by leaving behind their own distinctive fragrance.
Ladd thinks Juicy Fruit’s effect on moles is gastronomic, not olfactory.
He thinks the little guys are attracted by the fruity aroma and actually eat the stuff. It gums up their little digestive tracts, and the moles die of monumental belly aches. Ladd says he has seen dogs and cats dining on moles, but he doesn’t know whether they were caught alive or dug up posthumously. You’d probably need an autopsy to find out whether death occurred by carnivorous assault or by Juicy Fruit gummage.
That brings up another subject: If you choose to poison moles as opposed to gumming up their works, you put the neighborhood dogs and cats at risk: If they eat the moles, they may also ingest the poison.
I shall conclude on a warning note: Never swallow a live mole. At least one seagull did, with fatal consequences.
According to an Internet source, a dead seagull was found with a mole’s body positioned with its head and forelimbs protruding from the bird’s carcass. Forensic investigation indicated that the gull probably had swallowed the mole alive. The mole went down fighting, tearing a 2-centimeter hole in the gull’s esophagus. When it hit bottom, it tore through the stomach wall and forced its way through the wishbone. The mole apparently died of suffocation, exhaustion and shock. The gull died of molestation.
Moral: If you’re bothered by moles and seagulls, find a way to bring them together. You’ll get rid of both pests at once.
Gene Owens has been around the Southern journalistic scene for 48 years. He has been senior associate editor of The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., and editorial-page editor of the Roanoke Times in Roanoke, Va.
As senior editor for Creative Services, a management consulting firm in High Point, N. C., he ghosted more than a dozen published books for professional clients. For the past nine years he has been assistant managing editor, political editor and columnist for the Mobile Register. Register readers last year named him their favorite local columnist, and readers of the independent regional magazine, Bay Weekly, agreed. He was runner-up in the regional Green Eyeshades competition among writers of humor columns.
He has been on the board of directors of the National Conference of Editorial Writers
and was editor of The Masthead, the NCEW’s national quarterly. He recently went into
semi-retirement in Anderson, S. C.
Read more of Gene's entertaining columns:
Ah for the life of a Freegan
A Tribute to Johnny Cash
Roy Moore at the Courthouse Door
All about Gene and Greasepit Grammar
Greasepit Grammar: Misplaced modifiers
Greasepit Grammar: Inertia can get you
Greasepit Grammar: Drinking and dranking
The Wal-Mart Paradox
Taking a week off from retirement to do nothing
Insulation reduces mouse mortality rate
Flocking South with the snowbirds
Sic the goats on your kudzu
Write Gene Owens at 1004 Cobbs Glen Drive, Anderson SC 29621 or e-mail him at email@example.com
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