To many people, particularly gardeners, moles are little more than pests. Their conical mounds can easily become a blight on your backyard, leading many people to seek solutions to get rid of them. In reality, moles serve an important ecological function and are a sign of a healthy ecosystem. Moles are small mammals in the family Talpidae commonly found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Additionally, there are also non-true moles that live in Australia and parts of Africa. However, these are not the moles that we’re going to be talking about today. Moles are well adapted to the subterranean lifestyle and are prolific tunnel diggers. This causes them to irk gardeners and farmers as their tunnels damage crops and plants. Many people also mistakenly think that they chow down on roots and other plant matter. Which begs the question, “what do moles eat?”
In this article, we’ll attempt to answer all of your questions about the dietary habits of moles. First, we’ll briefly talk about what moles generally like to eat. Then, we’ll move on to a discussion of how moles hunt and forage for food. Next, we’ll compare what moles eat in the wild versus what they eat as pets. Finally, we’ll explore what baby moles eat. So, let’s dig into this topic and answer the question, “what do moles eat?”
What Do Moles Like to Eat?
Moles are subterranean hunters, and spend most of their lives underground. Contrary to popular belief, moles do not eat plants. In reality, they are carnivores that eat massive amounts of animal matter. Specifically, moles tend to target invertebrates and insects, and will do so in large quantities. During the course of a single day, a mole can eat up to 100% of its own body weight in insects. Overall, earthworms are a mole’s favorite food. A single mole will eat tens or hundreds of thousands of worms over the course of its life. That said, moles do not just eat earthworms. They enjoy consuming a wide variety of insects and invertebrates. As such, we’ve compiled a list of 10 foods that moles like to eat. These are the foods that you’ll most commonly find a mole snacking on out in the garden. The 10 foods include:
How Do Moles Hunt for Food?
Moles possess many of the same senses as humans, although they use them to different degrees. It’s well known that moles are practically blind, which makes sense given how much time they spend underground. They can only detect light and movement, and can not distinguish color or objects at a distance. As such, they rely on their other senses more to find food. In particular, they have very keen senses of smell, touch, and hearing. A mole uses its hearing to sense vibrations in the soil around it, which is useful for finding burrowing worms. Additionally, research suggests that moles have a stereoscopic sense of smell. Each of its nostrils can operate independently, allowing it to determine the direction of a specific smell. Moles also have very sensitive whiskers, which they use to help them explore their environment.
Moles are most active in the early morning or evening. They prefer to build their homes in moist, loamy soil where their tunnels can maintain their shape. A single mole can dig at a speed of nearly 15 feet per hour. Most tunnels are usually around 2 inches wide and about a foot below the surface. Their dens contain many rooms, including sleeping quarters, a kitchen, birthing areas, and storage rooms. Moles are voracious eaters and tend to immediately consume what they find. In fact, the star-nosed mole is one of the fastest known eaters of any mammal, capable of consuming 10 mouthful-size earthworm chunks in just 2.3 seconds. However, moles also collect uneaten food and store it for later consumption. Some moles have been known to store hundreds of earthworms inside their dens.
What Do Moles Eat in the Wild?
In the wild, moles will eat pretty much any type of small insect or invertebrate that they can find. They particularly like earthworms, which make up the majority of their diet. A single mole is capable of eating around 50 grams of earthworms in a single day, which equates to around 200 worms. That’s a lot of worms! Since moles have to dig so much, they expend a lot of energy. This may explain why they have such ravenous appetites. Aside from worms, moles also enjoy eating grubs and the larvae of other insects. Moles will also eat other insects and invertebrates that they encounter inside their tunnels. Some common prey that they feast on include snails, slugs, ants, beetles, spiders, centipedes, and millipedes. Moles do not hibernate in the winter, so must hunt all year-round. As such, they will eat whatever unlucky insect that crosses their path.
What Do Pet Moles Eat?
We have to start off by saying that moles do not make great pets. They don’t adapt well to captivity due to their high stress levels and lack of desire for social interaction. Additionally, moles require almost constant feeding in order to stay alive. They eat almost the entire time that they are awake, so feeding a pet mole would be a tall task. However, if you were to keep a captive mole, the main food that it would eat would be earthworms. Lots and lots of earthworms. You’d likely need to feed your pet mole at least 200 worms a day to keep it healthy, if not more. On top of that, you could supplement its diet with other insects such as beetles or grubs. Just remember, you should not keep a mole as a pet under almost any circumstance.
What Do Baby Moles Eat?
Mole babies, or pups, are born naked and completely blind. As such, they’re completely reliant on their mother when they are born. However, they will reach adult size by around 3 weeks old, and become completely self-sufficient by around 6 weeks old. Until they are around a month old, mole pups subsist only on their mother’s milk. If you encounter a baby mole in the wild, you’ll want to leave it alone in case its mother comes looking for it. In the case that you end up caring for a baby mole, you can feed it kitten formula. This is only necessary if the mole has no fur and is less than a month old. If the mole pup has fur, then it’s fine to feed it a diet of earthworms, beetles, and grubs. Once a mole is around a month old, it will eat the same diet as an adult mole.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/juefraphoto
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