Mulch and Termites

Does Mulch Attract Termites Around the Home?

Mulch is used in landscaping to inhibit weed growth and help soil retain water. Wood mulch is a popular choice for New England homeowners, but the moisture-retaining wood chips also provide habitat for wood-dwelling pests, such as subterranean termites.

Placement of mulch around a structure’s foundation can support the survival of termites already established in the soil or draw termites to the structure (foraging termites may locate wood mulch prior to finding entry point into structure).

Some types of mulch are less palatable to termites than others, and home owners should consider selecting termite-resistant mulch for their landscape projects.


Melaleuca Mulch

  • Considered to be termite resistant and the most termite repellent mulch.
  • Least preferred mulch for termites according to scientific studies.
  • Termites will not eat melaleuca and have difficulty maintaining habitats under mulch piles.

Cedar Mulch

  • Has termite repellant properties.
  • Shown by studies to be detrimental to termite attack and survival.
  • Resin found in heartwoods of cedar can be toxic to termites.

Cypress Mulch

  • Extremely resistant to termites.
  • Decays very slowly; termites feed minimally on the wood.
  • Contains resins similar to those found in cedar that are detrimental to termites.

Cypress heartwood can be scarce, and mulch may be harvested from cypress sapwood. Homeowners should avoid using cypress sapwood, as it does not possess termite-resilient properties.

Non-wood Mulch

  • Gravel and shredded rubber are excellent for repelling termites.
  • Eliminates the food source for termites but may still provide shelter/moisture for the pests.

Use of Mulch

Homeowners should be cautious about termites when applying mulch around foundations. Use these precautionary measures to avoid termite infestation:

  • Foundation: Mulch should be kept at least six inches from the foundation of a home and never contact siding.
  • Application: Homeowners should apply mulch sparingly. Keeping mulch levels below two inches makes nesting difficult for termites.
  • Replacement: Mulch should be replaced every two or three years. This will help repel termites.
  • Cover the Ground: Laying ground-cover fabric down between the soil and mulch will also reduce chances of termite infestation.

Homeowners should remember that the naturally occurring termite-resistant resins in melaleuca, cypress heartwood, and cedar fade over time and could eventually become conducive to termite infestation.

If termites are found in mulch around the home, contact pest control specialists for proper elimination.

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