Mulch is a common material made of decaying bark, compost, and leaves that is laid over the soil surface for covering. It helps retain the soil’s moisture, prevent the appearance of weeds, maintain the coolness of the soil, and give the garden bed a more attractive look. As a result, mulch is one of the most popular elements in a garden.
According to a study from the Department of Entomology of the Iowa State University, worker termites search their way towards the soil surface to eat wood and other cellulose materials then carry it back to their colony to share with the other members. They prefer the environment in landscape mulch because of its moisture content and protection from the elements.
Finding termites in your mulch is important because it is the precursor to them making their way into your home. If you live in an area where termite presence in often a problem opting to use crushed stone or other mulch alternatives can be a good choice.
Can you keep termites out of mulch?
Yes, although challenging it is possible to get rid of termites in mulch and on your property. You can take preventive and corrective measures to stop the insects from reaching and destroying any wooden structures on your property. As long as you know the right process for exterminating these pests, you will be able to remove them.
If termites have already made their way from the mulch onto your property, you may want to spray the mulch with insecticides, but it will not be very effective since the active ingredients of most store-bought insecticides will lose effectiveness to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. This is why we always recommend consulting with an expert who has access to stronger products, can quickly identify and prevent any further damage. That being said some DIY treatments will be discussed further along in the article.
Why Are Termites Attracted to Mulch In The First Place?
Apart from the more obvious wood composition of mulch, the attraction between termites and mulch lies on moisture. This is mainly because mulch is used to keep the soil moist when gardening. With the help of mulch, planting and growing shrubs, flowering plants, and trees will be much easier. As you may already know, termites love to dwell in moist places. That is why these insects would choose to reside in areas where mulch is scattered. They stay there to dig thin tunnels and search for food.
However, there are several termite-resistant mulches that homeowners can use. These are still effective in keeping the soil moist without attracting these property destroying insects. Some of these termite-repellent wood mulches include melaleuca, eucalyptus, California redwood, and Southern tidewater red cypress. These types of wood lessen the insect’s chance of survival.
On the other hand, wood mulch made from loblolly pine and slash pine should be avoided if homeowners want to avoid termite infestation. Termites love these types of wood.
Preventing Termites From Entering Your Mulch
Keep Excess Moisture Under Control
Homeowners need to be aware of the presence of damp wood within their properties. This is the preferred climate for termites and a primary way Formosan subterranean termites enter structures. Look for any items in the backyard that could be collecting excess moisture such as logs, branches or kid’s toys and remove them.
In addition, examine gutters for overflow when it rains. Any leaks will expose the perimeter of your house to excess moisture.
Keep Branches and Roots from Touching the House
Placing plants near the house increases the chances of termite infestation. This is because roots can pave the way for the pests to reach the home. Once the vines and shrubs grow on the side of a house and inch their way into the sides of the building, they will start acting as a pathway for hungry termites that will destroy the wall and other wooden materials. From there they only need a crack or a small patch of damaged siding to enter the house.
If possible avoid planting very close to the house as this will make it difficult for the structure to be examined by termites. If shrubs or trees are already planted next to the house, make sure that the branches and leaves are constantly trimmed. For those who are still planning the landscape design of their garden, they can have the plants placed at least three feet away from the home to allow them enough room to grow.
Chemical Barrier Implementation
A common strategy used in termite prevention is to lay a chemical barrier on the soil surrounding the house and mulch. This works as an invisible line used to prevent the approach of termites. Once the soil has been treated with chemicals, it is not advisable to plant in it. Putting more soil on top of the chemically-laden area will also compromise the barrier placed and increase the chances a termite invasion into wooden structures.
Here you can find the products used to place the “barrier” and other products that will aid in detection. Contacting a professional for advice and application is our preferred way to make sure the job is done correctly.
How to Treat Mulch That Is Already Infested with Termites
While termite presence on mulch can be prevented, it is also very important for homeowners to know what to do in case the mulch is already laden with the pesky pests. These all-natural ways of removing termites in garden soils can be used before considering chemical treatments from professional pest control experts.
- Soil Flooding – While termites love to feed on moist environments, they are not comfortable living in extremely wet conditions. Inundation can be effective in the areas that are already infested with termites. Those who are on a tight budget will like this idea since they only need a garden hose and an ample amount of water to flood the soil.
- Kill Termites with Nematodes – A study conducted by researchers from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Jazam University, and Aligarh Muslim University claimed that Entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) could be used to eliminate termites. These naturally-occurring microscopic roundworms are considered an effective natural insecticide because of gut bacterium. As soon as the nematodes enter the termite’s body, they release bacterium that poisons the their blood. Check out Nematode treatments and other beneficial insects here.
- Natural repellents – Since chemical insecticides may not be an effective way to eradicate termites within the property other materials can be used. These include wood from cedar trees that contain a chemical known as thujone and mulches from redwood and cypress trees that have resins that repel termites.
What Are the Other Termite Extermination Methods for Insect-Infested Mulch?
If termite-resistant mulch is not an option, homeowners can use other ways to get rid of these insects. One of which is using borate salt. Once this component gets in contact with the soil where the termites reside, those that ingest it will die due to starvation and malnutrition.
Property owners may also opt to quickly change the temperature of an infected area to kill the termites. Liquid nitrogen can be used to lower the temperature of the soil under the mulch. Alternatively, building a fire on the area located near the colony of these insects can be done to drastically increase the temperature. These drastic temperature changes will be hazardous for the insects.
Fortunately, the humans living near the area will not be affected by any of these methods. However, those who will choose to use heat treatment must take extra precautions to protect their properties. High temperatures can damage appliances that are near the termite infested areas. These should be removed and shut off to avoid possible damage.
Other useful methods to control termite infestation include termite baits. These should be scattered directly on the confirmed colonies of these pests. Since these baits mostly consist of cellulose just like mulch, the termites will be tricked to head toward it. When these insects find it, they will be tempted to eat it then eventually die.
Because termites are naturally attracted to mulch, homeowners need to do everything they can to prevent any possible infestation from happening. This may require them to exert more effort to get rid of these pests. Barring them from reaching the structures inside their property is the topmost priority. It will help homeowners protect their wooden structures from possible destruction caused by these wood-eating insects. So, always check and make sure that the landscape mulch in the garden is termite-free!