Does Mulch Attract Termites? Avoiding Common Products That Termites Love

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Pest Control | January 4, 2024

Man with wheelbarrow full of mulch wonders does mulch attract termites, does mulch attract bugs, what attracts termites, and can you buy termite resistant mulch?

Many homeowners wonder, does mulch attract termites?

When landscaping outdoors, mulch is a key element that can hep retain moisture for your plants and discourage weeds, but If you’re worried about termites, will wood mulch attract them to your home?

It is not mulch necessarily that may potentially attract termites to your home; termites might become attracted to the heat and moisture retention provided by mulch laid down near your home rather than the mulch itself.

And, scientifically speaking, termites are less likely to thrive in mulch than in underground soil or mud tunnels near larger and more stable supplies of wood,1 like trees and the wood frames of houses.

This guide answers the question, does mulch attract termites, and examines some of the elements that do, so that you can avoid making your home and garden seem like an oasis for these pesky (yet highly crucial) member of the environment.

Termites in Mulch: Does Mulch Attract Termites?

So, does that mean that you are out of the woods as a homeowner when it comes to potential termite infestations? As previously mentioned, termites don’t prefer wood mulch as a food source and don’t particularly live long in wood mulch if separated from their colonies and larger food sources.

No, you should always stay vigilant as a homeowner. Termites significantly damage or destroy over 600,000 homes in the United States annually.2

Americans spend over $5 billion on exterminator prices and Terminix pricing metrics, extermination treatments, and structural repairs due to termite infestations.2 Some financially savvy homeowners buy homes with non-destructive termite damage to negotiate as much as $2,500 off the initial selling cost.3

As a homeowner, you can’t avoid termites, you can only mitigate your exposure to them via shrewd landscaping practices.

In this comprehensive guide, you will learn several home protection techniques if you keep asking yourself, “Does mulch attract termites?” Mulch made from cypress heartwood, or the wood at the center of cypress trees, and cedar are known organic termite repellents.4

How you strategically lay mulch around your home will protect it from termites as well, as you will learn in this guide. Firstly, here is what you should know about termites and why you should worry more about a termite swarm in house structures than in wood mulch.

What Attracts Termites?

So, what attracts termites to the wood in your house in the first place?

Moist soil or mud that is insulated from the elements via thick mulch layers allows termites to tunnel, transport, and keep in contact with their colonies.

Graphics with text that shows what attracts termites such as mulch in gardens and home foundations, thick mulch layers, mud, and food resources.

In other words, you should probably worry about undetected termite infestations in your home rather than transplanting a new infestation via termite-infected wood chip piles.

Termites might start using the mulch in your garden and around the foundation of your home as a transport system more than as a food source.

Termites live in regimented caste survival systems like ants and require nearby and sustainable food sources to survive;11 termites are not likely to survive the initial wood mulching process. Additionally, wood mulch is not a preferred or sustainable food source for termites.

“Does mulch attract termites?” isn’t always the right question that you should ask if you’re a worried homeowner.

You should be more worried about how to mitigate your risks against termites, which are a beneficial and natural part of the natural ecosystem of the world.

Termites 101

Before you can appreciate the answer to the question, “Does mulch attract termites,” you first have to understand the termite a little.

The termite is an ancient insect that probably evolved from the cockroach tens of millions of years ago.5 Termites are light brown or cream-colored and aesthetically resemble a cross between an ant and a roach.

Scientists have classification names for almost 3,000 distinct species of termite.5

A close-up of a group of termites on soil, showing their translucent bodies and reddish-brown heads.

(Image: RoyBuri14)

Termites are ancient insects that have probably existed for anywhere between 66 million to 145 million years since the Cretaceous period.5,6 For added context, the dinosaur became extinct about 65 million years ago, so even by accepting conservative estimates, the termite species have been roaming the Earth since the dinosaur extinction era.

Over 10% of the Earth’s species biomass is the termite population.5 Termites are detritivore species,7 meaning they gain all their nutrients by eating rotting wood and wood-based products.

The most important thing to understand about termites is that they are aggressively eusocial creatures like ants and bees.8

Termite colonies have kings and queens and a regimented caste system and roles like “soldier” and “worker” drone positions.5 Termites exist for the benefit of their colonies and not the individual termites; it’s more apt to think of termites as a superorganism or hive-mind creatures than individual creatures.5

Termites live in colonies and tunnel systems in moist soil and mud near their food sources like a house or trees. One termite colony can extend underground for over 300 feet to a main nest, and contain over 70 million termites with a combined biomass weight of 600 pounds or more.2

So, why do you need to know all of this information? It’s important to understand that termites are like a superorganism, a colony of one that needs large food sources of wood to thrive and survive.

A few individual termites cannot survive long separated from their colony and cannot survive in wood mulch.

You should not worry about termite exterminator cost metrics relative to termite-infested wood mulch products. But you should worry about termites, which are intelligent and eusocial insects akin to a superorganism, using wood mulch as a transportation system to use your home as a food source.

Wood mulch piled too close to your house is more likely to exacerbate an already existing but minor termite infestation in your home than rather than be caused by termite-infested wood mulch.

Does Wood Mulch Attract Termites?

As previously mentioned, the answer to this question can be invariable– “yes” and “no”. Yes, termites can be attracted to wood mulch, but not necessarily as a food source.

A close-upof reddish-brown cedar mulch, a known termite resistant mulch, with various sized chips and shreds, spread on the ground next to a large grey rock.

Wood mulch retains moisture and heat within soil and soil beds. Worker termites can be attracted to wood mulch because moisture retention and heat create the perfect environment for termites to create their subterranean nest and pathway network.

Worker termites might use the wood mulch laid around your home as a transportation and tunnel system to ferry wood back down to the main nest. Additionally, the termites won’t necessarily eat the wood mulch, they might opportunistically eat the wood in a nearby home or tree near the mulch.

Does Cypress Mulch Attract Termites?

Mulch made from cypress tree wood chips is also known as an organic termite repellent. However, you must use the right component of the cypress tree to effectively use it as a repellent.

A tree has organs just like a human, and the bark of the tree is akin to the skin of the tree. The heartwood of a cedar tree, or the interior center of the tree, must be mulched to become an effective repellent to ants.4

Does Pine Straw Attract Termites?

Technically no, but pine straw mulch can still be used by termites as a transport facilitator into your home or nearby trees. Pine straw is just dried-out pine needles repurposed as mulch.

Unfortunately, pine straw is not an effective repellent of termites.

Do Wood Chips Attract Termites?

Wood chips and wood mulch are technically the same thing. Wood chips are the pulverized and shredded flakes of a tree.

Wood mulch is a method of using wood chips as an organic and aesthetic blanket on landscapes and gardens to retain moisture and suppress weed growth.

A fragmented, dark-colored wood chips densely covering the ground.

(Image: Garyuk3113)

So, it is not necessarily the wood chips that attract termites, it is the environment they create that makes life for subterranean termites hospitable and sustainable near larger wood sources.

Does Mulch Attract Bugs?

Insects and bugs are not the same thing; insects have antennae, segmented bodies, and spindly legs. Bugs have straw-like mouths.

So, the terms insect and bug are used interchangeably, even when they shouldn’t. Still, mulch attracts bugs and insects like termites, cockroaches, millipedes, centipedes, ants, and other pests because they offer moisture, can act as homes or transportation systems, and breeding grounds.

Keep your mulch as dry as possible to repel pests.

How Thick Should a Mulch Layer Be on the Ground?

Your layer of mulch around trees should not exceed two to three inches in height. A mulch layer higher than three inches will help termites exist and travel to and from your house for a long time.

A mulch layer higher than three inches will keep oxygen from the soil and retain so much moisture without evaporation that plant life might begin rotting. The wood mulch may also begin rotting faster than usual and then really become a food source for termites.

Do Termites Eat Live Trees?

As previously mentioned, termites are detritivores.7 Termites like to eat rotted and dying wood more than living wood.

If termite colonies set up a nest in a living tree, they have probably infiltrated a part of the tree that is rotted out. Likewise, termites are more likely to use wood mulch as a transportation system to access rotting parts of your home’s wood-based structures than to use wood chips as a food source.

When Do Termites Swarm?

“When do termites swarm?” is a question many homeowners ask because a termite swarm indicates that you already have a serious termite infestation.

A termite swarm is when termites grow wings,12 amass, swarm, and fly closely to light sources. Termite swarms occur once a year and are the method by which they attract mates and reproduce.

If you see a termite swarm, it means that you have a preexisting termite infestation that is about to exponentially grow in population.

Termites are ancient, intelligent creatures that have been around since the death of the dinosaurs. They are also an important part of the ecology chain of nature and are useful for breaking down organic matter,

So, if you use wood mulch, instead of asking does mulch attract termites, consider how termites might be using mulch as a transportation system to your house or trees and finding the rotting points as a point of entry.

Frequently Asked Questions About Does Mulch Attract Termites

Does Cedar Mulch Attract Termites?

Cedar wood is a known repellent of termites.4 A great way to keep your mulch termite-free is to utilize cedar wood as a mulch source.

What Is the Best Method for Controlling Termite Populations?

You may want to compare the prices of your local exterminator professionals. Termites usually live and thrive in underground tunnel and nest networks and are hard to eradicate if you don’t know what you are doing.

How Much Does It Cost To Hire Professional Termite Exterminators?

A bad termite infestation can destroy your home, so a termite exterminator visit will not be cheap. The average expense for a termite exterminator ranges from $230 to $930, with the price potentially rising to $2,500 for extensive infestations.10

What Is the Best Way To Apply Mulch Around a Home?

Keep wood mulch about a foot to 24 inches away from your home and its foundations. Rake your mulch every few weeks to check for pest activity.

How Closely Should Mulch Be Applied to a Tree?

Place mulch at a distance of four inches to six inches from a tree’s base to avoid excessive moisture retention that can lead to wood rot. Since rotting wood is a favored food source for termites, maintaining this distance helps prevent infestations.

Does Eucalyptus Mulch Attract Termites?

Scientific research has proven that termites will not last long living in or using mulch sourced from Eucalyptus trees.9 Consider using a full or partial mix of eucalyptus wood in your mulch to repel termites.

What Other Types of Wood Can Be Used as Termite Resistant Mulch?

There are numerous types of wood that can be utilized as termite-resistant buffers from your house and landscape trees and fauna. Mulch sourced from pine bark, hardwood, and Melaleuca trees are also excellent at repelling termites.


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13Wood Chip Mulch Photo by Garyuk31. Resized and Changed Fornat. Pixabay. Retrieved January 4, 2024 from <>

14Brown Termites on the Ground Photo by RoyBuri. Resized and Changed Fornat. Pixabay. Retrieved January 4, 2024 from <>