Does Bark Mulch Attract Termites?

Photo 1

When you planning your garden landscape, you’re usually going to use some kind of mulch in it.

Many homeowners opt for the wooden bark mulch. But there’re all those rumor about it attracting termites, inviting them to your house or even coming with termites inside from the store!

What is true about this and does bark mulch attract termites?

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What is bark mulch?

Mulch, organic or inorganic, helps to keep the moisture level in your garden, protecting the plants growing on flower beds from high temperatures. Mulch also makes the weed control essentially easier. It can also be used for decorative covering of the pathway or other areas.

Bark mulch are chips made of the bark of the tree. This mulch can be cheaper than the wood chips, because in many sawmills the bark is pretty much a waste material, that can be bought with the low cost.

Photo 2In the garden landscaping there’re several types of bark mulch that are popular:

  • Cedar;
  • Pine;
  • Spruce;
  • Hemlock.

The choice depends not only on looks of the mulch, but also on its endurance quality. Fine cedar mulch might last up to 10 years, while the pine tree bark might break down quickly.

Learn more about drywood termites: signs of their activity; best methods of treatment: spot treatment and DIY methods; how to get rid of them in furniture?

Can the bark mulch bring termites to the garden?

Termites is a common problem in certain climate areas. They are threatening householders and state money, wasted on protection and vast repairs of damaged properties. So, obviously, such a destructive insect collected the whole snowball of rumors, spread by panicking homeowners.

There was a wave of stories about termites found in mulch bought in stores, that invaded the garden. This is completely untrue and people who suspect this know nothing about the termites.

There’re plenty of reasons why this cannot happen:

  • Termites would not survive in the sealed bag, so, even if you find any in the bag you bought from the store, they will be long dead.
  • Even if you bought the mulch directly from the mill and it was never properly packed, the termites that can be inside a mere workers and will not last long, being separated from their colony.
  • The workers, that can be found in mulch from time to time, cannot build up their own colony. It’s not Adam and Eve story. For this the termites have special winged reproductives, that you will not find in mulch for sure.

Here you can learn more information about effective termite control remedies: Bora-Care, Boric acid, Borate, Fipronil, Chlorpyrifos, Chlordane, Borax, Timbor, Termidor, Terminator, Phantom, Lorsban, Biflex, Terro. You can choose different forms, such as – foam, liquid, powder.

Does mulch attract termites?

Photo 3Another popular misconception is that mulch attracts termites as a food source.

This is not entirely accurate. The nutritional value of the mulch is relatively low and is even less for the bark mulch.

It’s been proved, that feeding only on bark mulch can sustain a healthy termite colony for no more than 10 weeks, and after 13-14 weeks the colony will die out.

So, when you put the mulch to you flower bed don’t think that you’re giving termites a delicious snack.

But it doesn’t mean that the presence of the areas with mulch doesn’t add to the attractiveness of your garden for termites. The bark mulch, even made of cedar, that is not attractive for termites as food, create a perfect nesting and foraging conditions for some termite species.

The subterranean termites usually nest underground and for proper colony functioning they need enough moisture. So, the humid, dark and protected soil under the layer of mulch is perfect for them.

Like this, yes, having mulch in your yard makes it more termite-friendly than before, but not because they eat mulch, but because they might nest under it.

Learn more about subterranean termites: signs of their activity; best methods of treatment and DIY methods. Eastern subterranean termites and their tunnels and tubes with photo.

How termites in hardwood bark mulch can be dangerous?

Well, as we mentioned, the termites nesting or foraging under the mulch are subterranean. They look for the wood to eat sporadically and can stumble on your house in their search, if the nest is so close to it.

The existence of the colony anywhere close to your home can be threatening and this is why you should take care of even only a starting infestation in your mulch.

What are the infestation signs?

The most common universal sign is a swarm. If you see hundreds of winged insects raising from your mulchy flowerbed – that’s it. You definitely have an infestation. Good news is – you also know where it is.

Photo 4But it doesn’t mean that you should make only local treatment.

This one can always be only a satellite colony. So, just in case, fight it as if you suppose that there’s more of it.

Another thing is just simply to see termites in your mulch.

What’s important here is to tell the difference between the termites and ants. Termites do not have a thin waist like the ants and their antennas are straight, when ants’ are elbowed.

If you are not sure in your identifying skills, collect couple of samples and bring them for checkup to your local pest control office.

Here you can learn more information about termite bait systems: Advance, Green, CSIRO, Nemesis, Exterra, Firstline, Terminate. Also find out how to make baits by yourself and how to refill them?

How to get rid of termite in bark mulch?

The most obvious way – to pour a lot of insecticide right on the mulch might not be the one to use. The thing is – the bark will absorb most of the termiticide and it won’t reach the goal.

Furthermore, it will create even more humid and favorable conditions for termites. So, there’re two ways to protect your household from the termites that can nest under the mulch, and first of them will be preventive measures.

Hope you understand that there’s nothing better, than not to let the termites in your house from the very beginning, so, not to worry about this or that item in your garden, make sure you’ve done something for the infestation prevention.

One of the best ways to protect your house is to use the barrier soil treatment methods. This way you’re creating a chemical no-cross zone for termites around the building.

This kind of treatment can be made pre-construction or post-construction and last for several years. If this is taken care of, the mulch in your garden shouldn’t be a problem.

Important! Take care that the layer of mulch doesn’t cross the chemical barrier, creating an entry point for termites.

Another way of protecting your house will be the installation of the baiting system. For this you have to place the stakes with termite monitors in strategic points around your house.

Then, if you will see that termites became active on one or several of your baiting stations, you can be sure they will eat some termiticide and bring it to the nest. There, workers will share their findings and poison the entire colony in a matter of weeks.

Check out the products of such giants as Bayer – Termite Killer Concentrate and Granules; and Spectracide – Termite Killer concentrate, sprayer, foam and Baiting stakes.

Now, if you already have termites in the wooden crisps on your flower bed, what should you do? First of all – remove the mulch.

Photo 5You can burn it, or dry it entirely under the bright sun – this temperature treatment should also draw termites out of the wooden pieces.

Anyway, you will not replace the mulch until the termites are exterminated from your territory.

The simplest way will be to use the baiting stations again.

If you just soak the soil with insecticide – there’s no 100 percent guaranty that you’ll hit the nest. The chances are, that the termites in mulch were simply using it as a covered, protected from sunlight passage.

To make sure you exterminated the colony itself, you need the foraging termites to bring the poisoned bait into the colony and feed it to the other members. Only this way you can make sure that termites will not reenter the area straight after treatment.

Useful articles

If you interested in more information of termites we recommend you to read the following articles:


Termites in mulch are quite usual and should be accounted for. Remember it even if you choose pea gravel or other kid of rock mulch – they still create good nesting conditions for subterranean termites.

So, when you plan your landscape design, do not forget to consult the pest control services to know that you have done your best and not to lose money on huge termite hunt afterwards.

1 comment
  1. James

    That’s perfect, now I’m gonna show it to my Mom, who’ being paranoid non-stop! “Don’t buy mulch from the stores, there termites in it, they will eat whole house! ”… She and some of her friends honestly think that’s an evil plot from major pest operators to infest every house….

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