31 March 2000

GOOD ADVICE FROM AMOLE-CATCHER…

ANIMALS, gardening and catching moles have been more or less my life, says Charlie May, who was born in January 1916.

He has spent a lifetime working on farms and gardens – for other people and in his own right – and is still entering fruit and vegetables to Buckleberry Flower Show, Berks where he regularly carries off plenty of prizes.

Like many a gardener, young or old, Mr May has waged an ongoing battle with moles.

"You cannot run a garden with moles," he says emphatically. "I must have caught hundreds over the years and remember catching 15 in the same place with the same trap in a matter of a few weeks."

He was taught how to catch them at the tender age of 10. "I was paid a penny for each one I caught and I have been catching them in the same way for over 70 years. It is not as easy as one might think, as they are very cunning little creatures!"

&#42 Mole methods

There seems to be something of a plague of moles around at present and Mr May offers Farmlife readers his advice for dealing with them:

"I do not think windmills and similar things are much good as they only seem to deter the moles for a few days and then they come back again. I think that the only way to keep them under control is to catch them with traps.

"If I buy new traps I bury them in the ground for at least a week, to get an earthy smell on them. I then try to find the main mole run, where they start from, such as a hedge or wood. Do this with a stick about the size of a normal walking stick, prodding the ground until you find a run. Never put a trap in the molehills, always in between them.

"When you have found a good run, clear out space enough to put the trap in. Remove all the soil leaving the run nice and clear. Set the tongue between the claws, handling it as little as possible as they have a strong sense of smell. When you have set your trap put it in the run and refrain from smoking. Then get some grass and put it around the trap, on top of the claws, to stop the soil from getting into the run. Put some top soil over the grass as it is important the moles see no daylight, otherwise they will burrow deeper.

"Leave the trap for about 24 hours then take a look. If the top of the trap is wide open, it is thrown. Pull it out and you might be lucky and have caught one – or you may find a trap full of soil – that is what we called stuffed.

&#42 Trap strategy

"Try moving the trap back along the run but never put the trap in the same place if you can help it. The moles know where the traps are if they are not moved up. Try another trap in the same run about 1ft apart. If this doesnt work try another one. I have used four traps sometimes but this is unusual.

It is a dirty job – some people wear gloves – but if you catch them in the end it gives you a little satisfaction.

"You will learn as you go along, as I did, and the very best of luck."

Winning ways:

Mr May excels

at growing fruit

and vegetables

and catching

moles

Picture of mole:

Michael Leach NHPA