Moles are small burrowing mammals that live underground and build tunnel systems called molehills. They have cylindrical bodies, velvety fur, small ears and eyes, shovel-shaped forefeet for digging, and short tails.
When are moles most active above ground?
Moles are most active above ground at certain times of the day when they venture out of their burrows to search for food. Generally, moles are most active in the early morning, evening, and night. They tend to avoid the hottest part of the day.
Why are moles nocturnal?
Moles are considered nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. There are several reasons why moles have adapted to being nocturnal:
- Avoiding predators – Many of the mole’s predators, like hawks, foxes, coyotes, and cats, rely on vision to hunt. Being active at night allows moles to avoid these visual predators.
- Temperature regulation – Moles are sensitive to heat and can overheat easily. Being active at night when temperatures are cooler helps them regulate their body temperature.
- Humidity – Moles require a humid environment since they lose moisture quickly due to their high metabolism. The higher humidity levels at night help them retain moisture.
- Food availability – Earthworms and grubs that moles feed on are closer to the surface and easier to locate at night.
Peak Activity Times for Moles
Moles follow daily and seasonal cycles of activity based on environmental factors like temperature, humidity, food availability, and breeding behavior. Here are the peak activity times for moles:
Early Morning (5-8 AM)
The early morning hours just before dawn are an optimal time for moles. Temperatures are cooler but the ground has retained some warmth from the previous day. Humidity levels are higher with the morning dew. Insects and worms begin stirring higher up in the soil layers. This combination of conditions brings moles to the surface seeking food.
Evening (5-10 PM)
As the sun begins to set and temperatures start dropping, mole activity picks up again in the evening hours. The cooler, humid conditions allow them to venture out of their burrows feeling less vulnerable to predators. They will continue foraging throughout the dusk and nighttime hours.
After Heavy Rains
Moles are more likely to be spotted above ground after heavy rains, especially during drought conditions. The rainfall brings worms and grubs closer to the surface which lures hungry moles looking for food. The wet conditions also allow moles to dig and tunnel with ease.
Moles Are Least Active in Mid-Day
While moles are active in the early morning, evening, and night, they tend to be least active during the midday hours when temperatures are hottest. Here’s why moles limit their activity during mid-day:
As previously mentioned, moles have sensitive skin and fur that make them prone to overheating. Temperatures are often highest in the afternoon between 10 AM – 4 PM. Moles will retreat to their underground burrow systems during these hot hours to keep cool.
Lack of Humidity
Midday heat reduces moisture and humidity levels. With their high metabolism, moles are prone to dehydration. Their tunnels provide a humid shelter away from the drying effects of direct sun.
Vulnerability to Predators
Many of the mole’s predators are most active during the day relying on eyesight for hunting. Increased visibility makes moles easy targets for hawks, foxes, coyotes and other predators during mid-day.
The mole’s tunnel systems provide protection from temperature extremes and predators, but make it difficult to find food. Worms, grubs and insects retreat deeper into the soil during the hot afternoon, out of the moles’ reach.
Seasonal Differences in Mole Activity
While temperature, humidity, and food drive their daily cycles, moles also follow seasonal activity patterns based on:
In spring and early summer when moles are mating, males seek out females by tunneling more extensively and may be active above ground at unusual times. This increased activity declines after breeding ends.
During winter in northern climates with significant snow cover, moles tunnel beneath the snow allowing them to remain active. Their runs are visible on the surface after snow melts.
In very cold winters, mole activity is reduced and they dig deeper into the frost-free soil. During hot, dry summers moles also limit activity to overnight when conditions are cooler and wetter underground.
Moles follow the seasonal cycles of earthworms, grubs, and insects. These food sources dictate mole activity levels based on their migration patterns up and down in the soil profile.
Signs of Mole Activity By Time of Day
Here are the signs of mole activity you are likely to notice depending on the time of day:
Morning (5 – 9 AM)
– Fresh mole hills from overnight tunneling
– Surface runways visible as lines in the grass
– Shallow tunnels collapse underfoot when walking
– Moles spotted above ground searching for food
Midday (10 AM – 4 PM)
– Absence of fresh mole hills or collapsed tunnels
– No moles spotted above ground
– Existing mole hills appear undisturbed
Evening (5 – 10 PM)
– New mole hills start appearing
– Evidence of fresh tunneling under patios, driveways or porches
– Worms and insects unearthed near mole hills
– Moles may be spotted grubs or worms in mouth
– Extensive new tunneling with many mole hills
– Surface runways extend significantly
– Tunnel entrances visible as holes in lawns
– Sounds of digging may be audible – a faint scratching noise
Tips for Deterring Moles Based on Activity Times
If moles are being a nuisance in your yard, here are some tips for the best times to employ deterrents based on when moles are most active:
– Walk yards early to indentify new mole tunnels and collapse them by stomping. This destroys existing shallow runs and may deter moles from extending them.
– Install ultrasonic stakes or windmill-style mole deterrents in the morning when new tunneling is evident. Vibrations will discourage moles from continuing to dig in that area.
– Apply castor oil, garlic or other natural repellent products to active tunnels during the middle of the day when moles won’t be disturbed by the activity or scent.
– Use a gas-powered landscape tamper to compress tunnels in problem areas while moles are inactive in their denning chambers.
– Place vibrating stakes near fresh mole hills that appear in the late afternoon or evening to deter further diggging.
– Stomp on surface runs or tunnels that become evident as mole activity resumes. Check for collapsed holes and remound dirt frequently in the evening.
– Install underground fencing barriers at dusk around flower beds, gardens or lawns where new tunneling has occurred to keep moles away overnight.
– Water yards heavily in late afternoon or evening during dry periods when increased moisture brings earthworms closer to surface. This lures moles directly into deterrents.
In summary, moles follow predictable cycles of increased activity in the early morning, evening, and overnight hours when temperatures are cooler, humidity is higher, and food is closer to the surface. Their activity decreases during the hot midday temperatures when prey retreats deeper into soil, and risk of overheating and predation is higher.
Understanding the peak activity times for moles in your yard based on temperature, humidity, food availability, and breeding behavior can help optimize the use of deterrents when they are most active. Targeting control methods during their primary activity periods disrupts tunneling and foraging behavior most effectively and may condition moles to avoid your yard.