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Choosing the Right Mulch to Protect Your Plants from Bugs

Choosing the Right Mulch to Protect Your Plants from Bugs

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Mulch is of great use to your home landscape or your garden. It adds beauty, definition, and class to any landscape, not to mention that it controls weeds and keeps moisture in for your growing plants.

Unfortunately, mulch also can attract bugs. Some bugs may do good things such as eating other bugs; however, many pests pose a danger to your home. If your mulch is too close to your home, those insects will end up inside with you.

Think of mulch as potentially providing a home to insects and other pests who are nearby. Part of the reason for that is one of its benefits, which is how it retains water.

However, mulch can keep enough to attract insects there. So you will need to monitor the water you add carefully and how deeply you stack your mulch.

First, look at pests that are attracted to mulch, then explore which mulches attract and which mulches repel pests.

Insects Attracted to Mulch

Termites: Termites are attracted to most mulch types because of the cold, moist protection it brings. It hides the work they are doing underground as they search for wood.

However, wood mulch could become a food choice for them. Pine and birch are some of their favorite types of wood.

Ants: Most ants consider mulch a great cover as well. However, carpenter ants are attracted to mulch because they love wood. The more mulch you have, the more likely they are to find it!

Ants build their nests in wood so they may skip your thick mulch bed for a log or fallen tree instead. Any organic wood is more likely to attract ants.

Mice: In winter, mulch keeps the ground warmer and a more even temperature than the extremes can be at times. Mulch attracts mice for this reason as well.

Mice also eat the outer bark and use it as a cover from animals that prey on them, such as cats and birds. Mice, as you can imagine, love any mulch that provides protection, including organic mulch, wood mulch, or straw.

Roaches: Roaches are attracted to any kind of decomposing material. Decomposing mulch then can attract roaches for cover or food and because they like the moisture.

Cockroaches are attracted to bark shavings and pine straw mulch the most.

Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes thrive in wet mulch. It is a problem, especially if it is moist enough to lay their eggs. Mosquitoes are attracted to mulch even after a light rain.

Spiders: Spiders do nest in mulch and will find their way into your home. Decorative mulch is an excellent place for them to nest. This fact may seem odd because spiders like the wood dust, mainly since it attracts insects that spiders eat.

Spiders are technically arachnids anyway and some of the comments about what repels insects will not apply to spiders. Spiders love all types of mulch because of the moisture and that it attracts insects that spiders can eat.

Mulch That Resists Pests

When choosing mulch, you have tons of choices. The great news is that some types will benefit your plants and deter unwanted pests.

So let’s look at the best mulch to avoid pests.

Inorganic Mulch

Inorganic mulch is the best kind of mulch to keep insects at bay rather than organic mulch, which is a derivative of natural products. Inorganic mulch is usually made from human-made products such as:

  • Rocks
  • Rubber
  • Plastic

Out of these inorganic products,plastic mulches that come in black-coated, aluminum-coated, or transparent sheets are best at controlling bugs. They reflect sunlight, which blinds and confuses insects, driving them away.

Rubber mulch significantly decreases insects in your garden. Rubber mulch is made from recycled tires, keeping them out of landfills.

This mulch doesn’t absorb water as regular mulch does. This mulch is so long-lasting that it will last as long as ten years.

Cypress or Cedar Mulch

Chip or bark mulch made from cedar or cypress trees helps repel bugs. Cypress and cedar contain natural chemicals and oils that deter insects.

Cedar chips repel, inhibit, or kill insects such as these varieties discussed previously:

  • Termites
  • Certain ants
  • Roaches

Cypress or cedar also deters carpet beetles and moths that eat cloth. One benefit additionally is that cypress and cedarwood are also resistant to decay, which allows them to last longer than other mulches.

Straw and Cocoa Bean Shells

Straw mulch decreases insects and is an excellent protection for squash and cucumber plants.

Straw keeps insects from laying eggs in your garden. Cocoa bean shell mulch deters insects. It works best against termites and slugs.


It is always best to keep a barrier between mulch, plants, and your home because of how easily it transfers plants into your home. A good rule of thumb is to maintain 18 inches.

Plants That Repel Insects

Many flowers and herbs help repel insects.

  • Marigolds repel mosquitoes, aphids, and tomato hornworms.
  • Chrysanthemums repel fleas, roaches, ticks, ants, and other pesky insects. Flying and crawling insects avoid mums. A component is deathly toxic to bugs.
  • Geraniums are brightly colored and repel leafhoppers, mosquitoes, and Japanese beetles. They come in a variety of colors.
  • Rosemary repels mosquitoes and other insects harmful to your garden. Rosemary can be used to season vegetables and burned to control mosquitoes.
  • Lavender is an effective deterrent for mosquitoes, flies, and fleas. Lavender is renowned for its calming properties and the versatility of its oil.
  • Basil is a leafy green herb that helps deter flies and mosquitoes. Basil is a tasty addition to many soups, salads, and chicken recipes.

Plants do not repel all insects. So consider using a variety of plants that can attract carnivorous insects, such as ladybugs. They will chow down on your other insects.

Birdbaths and Birdfeeders

Birds will eat pesky bugs in your yard so there are reasons to keep birds around. They also are beautiful to watch.

Just be aware that they can also carry disease and cause issues. Keep the birdbaths and feeders further away from your home to control these potential problems.


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