Pest Guide: Gophers and Moles
Gophers and moles are animals that live and dig under the ground. They often go unseen and only surface in darker spaces. If these pests are present, they can cause serious damage to marijuana plants that you have worked hard to grow from feminized seeds that you likely spent good money on.
The characteristics of these animals vary, but there’s one thing for sure: NO grower wants these around their outdoor cannabis garden.
Learning more about the difference in moles and gophers, the possible damage they can cause, and how to get rid of them will help ensure a grower takes the right steps when working to fix the issue.
Gophers vs. Moles
Moles are furry, dark creatures that are approximately five to seven inches long. They have small eyes, pointy noses, and powerful claws. It has been believed for a long time that moles are blind, but some findings show they may be able to decipher light from dark through hidden eyes that are permanently covered. The sharp and powerful claws are used for creating underground tunnels, which they use to get around.
Gophers are approximately five to 14 inches long and have thin, long tails. The gopher can vary in color from light brown to black. They have very flat heads, small eyes and ears, and powerful teeth and claws. The gopher’s teeth are used for tearing plants at the roots.
While gophers are a loner creature, they will support one another when needed and defend their homes and family. The gopher lives deep inside the earth, but creates tunnels leading to the outside world. Older gophers will stay near the hole opening and watch for predators. If predators are spotted, the gopher will whistle to warn their families to run away and hide. Gophers eat grass, roots, plants, and trees, which is the main reason they are problematic for marijuana growers.
While gophers can help to enhance and oxygenate the soil because of their tunneling, they will also eat the root systems while digging. Sometimes, they will even come out of the tunnel and take the entire gorilla glue or blue dream plant back inside with them!
Moles only eat bugs and won’t cause harm to the crop, making them less of a threat to a grower’s crop if there is other good food to eat nearby.
A gopher hill looks different from a mole’s mound. The gopher mound is a fan shape with the hole being seen on one side near ground level. With moles, the mounds are a path that goes across the ground. Both mounds created will look like healthy earth, and there will be no signs of an entry or an exit point.
If a person is unsure if moles or gophers are causing the issues to marijuana plants, it’s time to learn more about the signs of these unwelcome intruders and how to tell them apart.
Types of Moles
There are several mole species in the U.S. The most common type is the Scalopus aguaticus, which is the Eastern Mole. It can be found throughout the eastern part of the U.S. and cause significant damage to gardens and lawns across the country.
A more troublesome species, which is found in the northwest region of the U.S., is the Scapanus Townsend, often called just the Townsend mole.
Technically, moles aren’t rodents. They belong to the Insectivora, a mammal family that is related to shrews. The Eastern mole features oversized front teeth and a pointed nose. The bigger claws allow it to create tunnels under the ground.
Types of Gophers
The pocket gopher was named thanks to the fur-lined pouch found on each side of its face. The pouches can be used for carrying and storing food. This gopher comes in an array of colors and are found across the U.S.
An underground burrow of pocket gophers can be over several hundred feet long and be just a few inches under the ground or several feet underground. If you are dealing with an entire burrow, it may be best to move the crop completely. In northern regions, gophers usually have just one litter each year. In southern parts of the country, they may have up to two litters a year.
Tips for Solving Gopher Problems
Moles aren’t directly problematic to marajuana seeds. Even when the plants grow larger, they will create a tunnel around the plant’s roots. A mole will not have any interest in your og kush or purple haze plants because roots are not their food. This isn’t the case with gophers.
Getting Rid of Gophers
There are several effective ways to get rid of gophers for good. Some of the most effective methods are found here.
One option is to plant oleanders near or around the marijuana crop. These plants are toxic and when eaten, they will kill the gophers. However, these will poison pets and humans, too, so they should be used with caution.
Birds of Prey
Certain predatory birds, such as owls and hawks, are natural enemies to the gopher. If they are near, they will look for gophers and not hesitate to catch them, which can eliminate the problem.
Garlic or Castor Oil
If a grower wants to avoid fumigating their grow area, which is often harmful to the environment, they should pour garlic or castor oil into the mound’s opening, which will force the gopher to another area.
Line the Garden with Hardware Cloth
Hardware cloth is a wire made mesh with tiny holes. If it lines the bottom and sides of a raised garden, the gophers will have a very hard time getting in. While they may try to jump over the sides, this is rare. Even if this happens, the gophers won’t be too hard to catch.
This method may not be an option if the grower already has their outdoor cannabis seed garden started or if they are not using raised beds.
From the perspective of a gopher, onions and garlic are not as good smelling or tasting as marijuana. As a result, a grower can plant garlic, chives, and other types of low maintenance alliums all around the cannabis plants to help repel these rodent pests.
Use Catch and Release Traps
While these represent a lot of work for a grower, no one ever claimed that being ethical with a gopher problem would be easy.
It’s a good idea to set the traps on a day when someone can monitor them. Set the traps at every gopher opening and look to see if anything has been caught. After the gopher is caught, take the trap to a nice spot in the woods or wild and let it go. It’s best to use special rodent handling gloves for the entire operation, as a gopher may not be too thrilled with being caught. The gloves will ensure a person is not scratched or bit.
Use Cayenne Pepper Powder
This is a spicy pepper that ranks on the 30K to 50K SHU on the Scoville Scale. Cayenne pepper can deter various kinds of animals from making their home in the grow area.
The powder can be sprinkled right into an active hole, or it can be mixed with water to create a spray. It is possible to combine this with soapy water, garlic, or veggie oil, which will keep pests away. To figure out if a tunnel is active, cover it with dirt to see if it has been moved after a few days.
A noise emitting device can be used for controlling gophers, too. These can be put in the active tunnels and come with an array of sounds to choose from.
Use a Cat
Allowing a cat to roam free in a cannabis garden will send a clear message to a gopher it is time to find someone new to live. Whether the method is lethal is dependent on the cat. Sometimes they will scare the gophers away; other times, the methods will be more deadly.
Marijuana and Gophers
There are a few signs that gophers may be in a grower’s marijuana garden. These signs include:
- The purple tropicana plant’s roots are chewed
- The whole super lemon haze plant is gone
- There are gopher mounds identified near the growing area
Unfortunately, gophers can be bad news for marijuana plants. Not only will they eat away at the plant’s roots, but they may steal the entire plant. What this means is that all the hard work a grower has put into their garden will be for nothing. However, moles are not an enemy. If these are spotted, there is no reason for concern.
Remember, the plants that have strong genetics will have much less of a chance of getting sick and are less vulnerable to diseases and pests. Growers need to ensure that the marijuana seeds they purchase are from a trusted seed bank.
The Bottom Line
Moles and gophers can be challenging to control. However, when the proper techniques are used, they can be controlled both humanely and effectively. Using a combination of natural deterrents, poisons, and traps is an effective way to keep these burrowing pests at bay. Be sure to keep this information in mind when dealing with a gopher or mole problem, regardless of how bad it is.
While pests are serious problems for marijuana plants, there are control methods that will effectively eliminate the problem. Although the thought of large pests may be enough of a deterrent to convince you to stick to growing indoor cannabis seeds, the right knowledge can equip you to keep your outdoor garden or greenhouse completely pest-free.