We’re all familiar with termites, primarily by name, and their habit of chewing on wood and causing problems for homeowners. Unfortunately, there is more to these pests than what we know on the surface. Does mulch attract termites? While mulch does appeal to termites, there is more to why you might find termites burrowed in your mulch; continue reading to find out what termites are attracted to in the home.
When it comes to termites that invade our homes, there are three types: dampwood, drywood, and subterranean, and each of them has its reason for invading your house.
Based on their names, damp and drywood termites live within the type of wood they eat. Subterranean termites enjoy living in the ground and leave the safety of the ground to find wood to consume.
What Attracts Termites in the House?
Termites are interesting insects closely related to cockroaches – studies show that they even evolved from cockroaches. Like some types of wood mites, termites feed on wood, leaf litter, dung, and soil. Although their habit of recycling wood and plant matter is ecologically essential, termite activity in homes often gets them labeled as pests.
Termites are attracted to wood, and the type of wood present determines the type of termite attracted to it. Aside from wood, termites are drawn in by moisture and wood or cracks near the home’s foundation to get inside.
What are Termites Attracted to?
The cellulose in wood is the primary food source for termites, but water is essential for termites to digest the cellulose. If you’re looking at pest control options, taking wood out of the equation is not enough to get rid of termites.
Moisture in your home comes from leaky pipes, improper drainage, which causes moisture around the foundation, and a lack of air circulation that creates a damp basement or crawl space. Dampwood termites require moisture in the soil to survive, so damp and water-damaged wood are what attract termites in the house.
Because subterranean termites live and travel through soil, they require some medium, usually wood or soil, to get indoors. If wood touches your home’s foundation, this creates a perfect entry point for a Formosan subterranean termite colony to enter.
If cracks exist in the foundation of your house, subterranean termites create mud tubes to make their way inside. Other termite species easily navigate these openings and cracks near windows or doors.
You can make your own cardboard termite trap and place it inside or out to determine if you have a termite problem. It’s easy to make and works quite well to flush out termites if they have taken up residence at your house.
Does Mulch Attract Termites?
Although mulch is not particularly attractive to termites, spreading mulch across an area creates an ideal termite environment. Because most mulch applications are several inches thick to work effectively at retaining soil moisture, termites thrive in this area.
Since mulch contains moisture and heat close to the ground, termites use organic mulch to avoid harsh weather.
Do wood chips attract termites? Because bits of wood make up most mulch, and termites enjoy feasting on wood, you might consider it safe to avoid wood mulch around your home. However, there are types of wood mulch that termites do not like.
Cedar trees contain thujone, a natural chemical compound also in wormwood. Thujone causes seizures and vomiting, among other more severe side effects to humans. This compound is also a natural termite repellent.
Cedar mulch lasts for years and improves the quality of the soil. Cedar mulch also maintains a suitable temperature for plants to thrive.
Cypress heartwood mulch differs from regular cypress mulch in that it repels termites and boasts anti-fungal properties. This is a hardwood mulch that takes three to four years to break down in a mulch pile.
Melaleuca mulch, made from the hardwood melaleuca tree, is the best mulch for keeping termites away for a less expensive option. Although melaleuca trees are not native to the United States, they are commonly found throughout Florida, making this mulch available.
Do Wood Chips Attract Termites?
When used as wood chip mulch, wood chips attract termites more than regular wood. It can also be a draw for neighborhood cats. Termites do not prefer wood chips when seeking food sources as it contains less cellulose than solid wood.
Additionally, solid wood allows termites to build tunnels, unlike loose chips. When used in mulch, the type of wood chips or bark determines whether termites will be nesting under the mulch.
Pine straw mulch is divisive among termite experts because termites do technically avoid pine straw. Pine straw mulch also traps moisture in the soil, creating an ideal location for a termite colony to form, leading to a termite infestation.
Pine bark mulch is low in cellulose, which termites need to live. Termites do not eat landscape mulch made of pine straw or pine bark; it only provides them with a nesting place and more room to build their network of tunnels.
Termites enjoy solid wood when looking for a food source, and softwood tends to be higher in cellulose than hardwood mulch. Common softwood mulch includes firewood, other kinds of pine wood, and cypress mulch containing sapwood.
It might seem smart to avoid all wood based mulches, but because mulch is not a real food source for termites, you should avoid any mulch that provides shelter and allows moisture to gather in soil. Mulch to avoid includes stone mulch or mulch piles made from pea gravel. However, you can keep cats out of mulch beds if you use stone, gravel, or rubber, as they prefer wood chips.
Removing Termites from the House
Because we know moisture is a crucial factor in what attracts termites in the house, tackling the moisture problem is the first step if you want to get rid of termites or deter them.
If you notice mud tubes from termites in your yard and want to stop the problem before they cause damage, hire a professional to treat your yard with a non-repellent termiticide. Opposed to a treatment that repels them, a non-repellent termiticide kills termites as they travel through it, unaware.
Check your gutters for overflow and proper drainage to ensure water isn’t pooling around your home’s foundation. If you have a crawl space, add a dehumidifier to the area to lower the humidity in the room to deter further termite activity.
To eliminate access, treat any exposed wood connected to the soil outside your home. Treat your wood with a wood preservative to prevent termites from infecting wood.
Borate is a water-soluble chemical used to control termite infestations in wood around the house. Once these natural termite treatments are applied, they create a barrier in the wood that stops termites from passing. If termites eat any treated wood, it kills them.
Clean your wood of any dirt or varnishes and allow it to dry. Outside, mix your borate and water in a bucket with a paint stirrer or similar object. Apply the treatment with a paintbrush to the wood. One mixed gallon should be enough to cover up to 200 square feet of lumber.
After the first coat, wait four hours before applying a second coat, and after finishing, clean your hands and supplies thoroughly. You will likely find that this treatment is what kills centipedes and other bugs that may find your home appealing. Set traps for a pincher bug infestation in house areas and eliminate this problem as well.
Recognizing the Signs of Termites
In North America, the Eastern Subterranean Termite is the most common type of termite to find in your home. These pests do more damage annually than fire and lightning by devouring wood for the cellulose inside.
Annually, termites cause billions of dollars in property damage, so it’s essential to identify signs that you have a termite colony at home.
Subterranean termite swarmers are small, ⅜ of an inch in length, with white wings. After swarming, their wings break off and leave a small wing scale on the insect. These pests are easy to mistake for carpenter ants, so sightings often go unreported until they cause further damage.
Because swarmers lose their wings, if you find a pile of wings in your home, it is a clear sign that swarmers have entered. Check around your porch and windows for discarded wings.
Mud tubes, the means of transportation for subterranean termites, are easily spotted signs of termite activity. The mud tubes look like long tubes, roughly the shape of straws, that connect termites from their soil to a food source.
Termites typically construct these tubes on a support structure like the side of your home, but it is not uncommon to find them in mid-air connected from your home’s foundation to the top of the crawl space. Termite castles are another surefire sign of termite activity. These structures look like mud tubes gathered in a thick cluster.
The additional signs of termite activity include visible damage to wood to structures in your home or mud that subterranean termites brought into the wood to maintain necessary moisture. An inspection of this mud tells if the area is active or abandoned.
Although there are steps you can take to protect your home from the invasion of a termite colony, the National Pest Management Association recommends contacting experts for professional termite treatments if you notice signs of termite activity.
While knowledge of termite activity is essential and kits exist to tackle termite activity, these kits are not often effective against large-scale infestations.
If our guide answered your termite-related questions like “Does mulch attract termites?” and “Do wood chips attract termites?” please share our guide on the connection between termites and mulch on Facebook and Pinterest.