Termites and Mulch: Does Wood Mulch Attract Termites?

Photo 1

Subterranean termite is a real hidden pest.

The insect leads an extremely secret way of life, that is why sometimes it is very difficult to identify the presence of termites’ colony nest inside your house.

But is your garden free from termites? Are there some of these nasty pests?

Does wood mulch attract termites? Today we will try to answer all these questions and help you to get rid of these dangerous insects outside your house.

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Wood Mulch and Termites

Wood mulch is always a side-product of woodworking: it is cheap, lightweight, organic and easily accessible. Pine bark or wood sawdust make your flowerbeds look natural. But the thing is: does this mulch attract subterranean termites? Let’s have a look at this issue.

Landscape mulches contribute to a stable moist environment that is good for our trees and shrubs, and unfortunately, also good for termites and other insects. One should bear in mind, that the soil in a garden is full of various insects: centipedes, millipedes, earwigs and also termites.

Photo 2If you dig the soil in any part of your yard, you will find many different pests and their eggs.

Most of these insects are not dangerous at all.

However, termites are another matter, since they may use the favorable environment in the mulch to gain access to your home.

Termites live under the soil and the members of working caste are constantly exploring the underground area searching for wood sources: rotten timber, cellulose, paper, etc. After they have found “food” they bring it to the colony via mud tunnels to feed their mates.

The presence of moisture favors termite for further exploration, tunneling and feeding. Therefore, any landscape mulch may improve conditions for termite colonies, whether the termites consume the mulch or not.

There is some kind of myth, that termites and other subterranean insects are attracted by bark or sawdust, but, in fact, insects like moisture, coolness and darkness under the mulch: and the thicker the mulch, the more insects you’re likely to find.

Actually, there is no difference between organic mulch and, for example, crushed granite as a mulch: termites can be found in similar numbers beneath bark, wood, gravel, and rubber mulch, though fresh wood chips may have the added attraction of providing a food source.

Warning! Nevertheless, pine bark or sawdust are little bit less resistant to termites: it soaks and decay very fast, but, at the same time, it dries also rapidly.

The most important thing is, that under the mulch layer on your flowerbed or rockery, after watering or rain the soil dries slowly that provides a perfect level of humidity for subterranean termites.

Also, there is no sun under the mulch that is another important criterion for these nasty insects. In other words, the area under the mulch is a perfect place for termites to live.

Recommendation: there is no need to avoid pine bark or sawdust as mulch for your flowerbeds or path – just apply it carefully and to keep an eye out for invading insects in your home.

Does wood mulch cause termites? We have just sorted it out that wood mulch attract termites as well as other mulch: any type of mulch can be a reason for termites to concentrate under the ground level of your flowerbed or rockery. Termites like veiled conditions that mulch provides.

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 to Discover Termites Under Wood Mulch?

Photo 3To find out whether the soil under the mulch layer contains termites is not a problem and doesn’t need some special knowledge.

You just need to turn up the much in the dampest areas that you have to water rather frequently (around bushes, trees and flowers).

There you can find the traces of termites’ appearance: rotten wood pieces with typical smell. If you don’t find such evidence, you can dig the ground in wet areas (10-25 cm depth).

If there is a sound termites’ activity you will find workers running to and fro in search of food and, possibly, you will find some eggs of these termites.

Warning! Examining your area for sings of subterranean termites do not forget about some safety measures: if you toss the mulch on your flowerbed do not forget to use protective gloves – a contact with termites in some cases can cause allergic reactions and contact dermatitis. After you have dig the soil in search of termites, do not forget to clean your spade in order not to spread termites and their eggs further.

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.

How to Fight Subterranean Termites in Wood Mulch? Step-By-Step Instruction

Step 1. After you have found that the area under the wood mulch on your flowerbed contains termites or their eggs you have to realize that there is already a sound termites’ activity that can possibly spread to your house.

You need to understand that some of preventive measures have been neglected. You’d better to check the other flowerbeds and rockeries for termites. Also, pay a close attention to your house and the soil near it.

Step 2. The next step for you is to take away the wood chip mulch. You can put it away for some time to make necessary treatment actions with the soil itself. Store the mulch in some big container that you use for some “dirty” work.

Step 3. Make a barrier around a flowerbed. You can dig some hard non-wooden material into the soil (roofing slate, tin plates). It will help you not to spread termites around when you will make your following step.

Photo 4Step 4. Dig all of the soil of the infested flowerbed to a depth of 20-25 cm. Mind the roots of the plants. This measure will help you to dry the soil and make it not so attractive for termites.

Step 5. Find a right chemical to fight these nasty pests. Since your flowerbed is full with your favorite flowers, bushes and other plants you have to choose the safest way to kill termites without killing your plants.

The best choice for your flowerbed is a killing stake. This “bait” contains cellulose food the ingredient called “sulflurimid” that is fed to the termites. When subterranean termites have eaten most of the stake (it can take time), an orange spring loaded flag pop’s up indicating that it is time to replace or refill the stake.

Foraging termites “bring” the substance to the colony to feed the other members, so they also die.

Be careful! Before digging the soil for stakes installation, locate and avoid all potential underground hazards such as gas, electric, water and other utility lines.

Step 6. Dry the mulch on the sun for 1-2 weeks. Spread it with a thin layer on some concrete foundation. It will be a nice idea to turn it over every 2-3 days.

Recommendation: before you put your mulch to dry you can treat it with boric acid to kill possible insects.

Step 7. Dig all of the soil of the infested flowerbed to a depth of 20-25 cm one more time avoiding roots and killing stakes. Put the mulch back to your flowerbed.

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?

After you have made such treatment activities it will be nice to look after your flowerbeds more carefully and take some preventive measures:

  1. Keep mulch dry: if your yard tends to stay wet, limit the mulch layer to 5 cm or less, and periodically rake the mulch so it can dry out and aerate.
  2. Pierce the soil with pitchfork: it will help the soil to aerate and dry faster.
  3. Water your plants carefully: water the area near roots only. Do not water the whole flowerbed if there is no need.
  4. Examine the stakes: if needed, replace them.

Useful articles

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


Photo 5The best option is to prevent the appearance of termites in your garden, though they are not always possible to detect before it became a real problem.

There are many accessible and safe methods to destroy termites’ colony today, including a colony under the mulch.

But remember, that termites do not like the mulch itself, they like the conditions this mulch provides.

1 comment
  1. Tyler

    actually, pine bark is not a very nice mulch for your garden – in a year or two it will look untidy and unattractive. Sawdust looks even worse. Also, in the course of decaying, sawdust takes away the most important element for plants from the soil – nitrogen. But, at the same time, when the old sawdust gets mixed with soil, it will get useful elements back to the plants. That is why sawdust is usually used as an effective soil loosener.

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