Let us discuss moles.
Not the scientific formula that is important in chemistry kind. Not the you’ve-got-a-hidden-spy-in-your-organization kind. Not the Mexican sauce (which is pronounced differently). Not the You-should-get-that-thing-on-your-face-checked-out kind. I’m talking about the furry kind.
It’s the second one that is giving your father conniptions, because yes, the moles have invaded our property.
Moles have an extra thumb next to their regular thumb. I’m not sure why since they don’t show up in circus acts very often (that’s about the only place I can think of where an extra thumb might be interesting). Moles only have five fingers on each hand—they’ve swapped their pinkies for the extra thumbkin. For years I was told that having an opposable thumb was what set humans apart from (and by implication “above”) animals. This seems to shed some dust on that theory. The extra thumb also makes it hard for them to borrow gloves from raccoons.
I think the extra thumb thing is kind of cool. I also think it’s cool that mole fur doesn’t run in a particular direction. Moles have very short, dense, velvety fur with no particular direction to the nap. (In this case, “nap” means the direction the fur lies in and has nothing to do with sleeping in the afternoon.) The evolutionary reason for having no nap is that it makes it easy for moles to move forward and backward when they’re underground—it doesn’t feel like their fur is being brushed the wrong way.
Queen Alexandra (married to King Edward VII) particularly liked mole fur and used mole fur for clothing. Being the Queen, pretty much anything she did turned to a Trend and the mole pest population in Scotland became the mole fur producing population in Scotland. Gotta love fashion. (PETA didn’t exist then, so no one objected.)
Moles primarily eat earthworm (they also chow down on other small invertebrates sometimes). Here’s the nifty part. Moles dig to create traps for worms, not because Mrs. Mole wants an extra room for her sewing. (In fact, moles only hang out long enough to mate then go their separate ways.) Moles dig lots of tunnels and then sit back waiting for worms to fall into the run. (I find it weird that worms fall into the tunnels—you’d think they would stick a head or tail into the tunnel and think “oops, wrong direction,” but apparently worms just don’t think that deeply.) Down the worm falls, zoom the mole runs up and eats it.
Mole saliva contains a toxin that paralyzes earthworms (how lovely). Once a mole has had its fill for the day, it paralyzes any new earthworms and sticks them in the pantry in a semi-alive state. Think Han Solo in carbonite. According to My Friend the Internet, researchers have discovered mole larders with thousands of stored earthworms. Being as how moles are not given to having friends over for tea, this seems to me to be a waste of perfectly good worms that should be busy aerating our soil.
Male moles are called “boars”, females are called “sows”. A group of moles is called a “labour.”
When it’s time to eat a worm, the mole squeezes the worm between its double-thumbed paws to force the dirt out of the worm’s insides. Not sure if I think that’s gross or cleverly clean. Not a big worm-eater, myself.
As I said, the moles have taken up residency. Which means Dad has taken up doing the Mole Dance. The best place for watching the Mole Dance is from the kitchen window, because you can see Dad stomping around the lawn to his own special beat. It’s funniest when you forget that he’s trying to collapse mole tunnels.
I don’t think the Mole Dance is going to be sufficient to tackle the mole problem this year. I’m fairly certain that Action Will Be Taken. I’ll keep you posted.