It might happen when you are getting ready to entertain at home for a whole host of guests, when you’re having family over for the holidays, or simply enjoying a romantic night in for two. It might happen during the day or dead of night, in the city or out in the country, in all climates and conditions. but the big question surrounding termite infestations isn’t that they can happen, but if they must – especially if you have a mulch pile.
Are these piles really the termite attracting nuisances they’re sometimes claimed to be? Does that mean getting rid of one means getting rid of the other?
Actually, it’s a lot more complicated than that. While there are elements of mulch that can attract termites, your risk can vary wildly depending on the type of mulch you use, how you use it, and other factors. Thankfully, managed properly, you can have a mulch pile without being eaten out of house and home by unwanted wood-eating guests.
Termites and Mulch
There are several reasons why we usually associate mulch with a risk of termites, and why the latter can indeed like the former so much.
First and most obviously, termites eat wood, which would seem to make mulch with wood chippings a veritable buffet. This isn’t always the case, and as we’ll see in a second it isn’t nearly as problematic as it might seem at first, but in cases where mulch piles become termite magnets, this is usually the first big red flag for why things can and, if left unchecked, will go wrong.
Then there’s the fact that termites tend to like dark areas. The inside of a mulch pile can suit that nicely. The same holds true for moisture.
Put those three together and create a space that’s dark, damp, and filled with drywood, and you have the perfect recipe for attracting termites.
That said, the real issue with mulch isn’t necessarily that termites will eat it but use it as a starting point to establish their colony. This can be especially true if the mulch in question is especially moist or there are already a bunch of insects near the mulch.
1 – Termite Resistant Mulch
Thankfully, not all mulch attracts termites equally. Different types of mulch are made from different ingredients, some of which won’t be of interest to or may even help repel termites.
Cypress sapwood, white birch, and types of pine are more favorable to termites. By contrast, eucalyptus wood, red cypress, California redwood, and wood chips like those are not nutritious for the termites. With wood chips like these, they will either be uninterested or else be turned off and search for more nutritious wood.
By putting out wood chips like this and making sure that there are not any other nutritious wood sources for the termites, you’ll likely starve the termites into seeking out a new colony.
This is the essence of laying out good, termite resistant mulch. Clay and other materials can also be included in the mulch, as these are likewise not nutritious or easy for the termites to use for their colonies.
2 – Use Mulch the Right Way
Another key step to making sure that you do not have to deal with termites for too long is to make sure that you’re using your mulch properly.
There are several things to consider when putting down mulch so as to ensure that it does not attract termites, not the least of which being the location. You want to make sure that your mulch is confined to your yard and does not spill over into areas where wooden aspects of your home are common. Make sure it is kept far away from your doors and walls.
Ideally, mulch should be kept at least six inches away from the foundation of your home to help mitigate this danger.
In addition, you’ll want to consider using materials such as gravel, which termites cannot eat. This is often best placed in the spaces between your flower beds and similar gardening areas.
3 – Careful with Your Watering
As mentioned above, moisture is one of the biggest attractions for termites. You thus want to make sure to mitigate this as much as possible. You naturally need to water your yard and garden, but you can place a barren, unwatered strip around your fertile soil.
This is another good example of where your gravel should ideally be. Placing gravel or other nonorganic dry material between gardening areas and between the plots and your home can help keep termites far away from termite invasions that might endanger your property via your mulch.
You should thus likewise be careful about watering both your home as well as the mulch. Try not to leave any standing water in the mulch.
Let your mulch aerate often enough that it dries out and does not become the damp, dank haven for termites that they might otherwise be.
4 – Natural Juices and Oils
If you are of an organic and DIY mind, you might want to consider looking into oils and juices as a natural pesticide. For example, spritzing citrus around your mulch and other problem sites can help ward off termites.
5 – Be Vigilant
The most important thing you can do to make sure that your mulch doesn’t become a haven for termites is to simply be vigilant and stay on the lookout for them. All it takes is a few termites to help set up a colony.
It is therefore important that you not become lax in your efforts to defend your mulch as well as your property from a termite invasion.
If you spray natural pesticides, for example, make sure you do so regularly. Make sure the mulch doesn’t become a puddle or slew of standing water. Take care to use wood chips that are not good for termites, and pay attention to how close your mulch is to your home.
By following these simple steps, you can take great strides toward making sure that your mulch, as well as your property, remains termite-free.