Does landscape mulch attract termites to your home? This seems to be the question of the century.
Landscape mulches contribute to a stable moist environment this is good for trees, shrubs, flowers, and unfortunately insects. Termites live underground in large, social colonies. The worker termites come to the soil surface to feed on wood and other cellulose materials and carry it back to share with the other members of the colony. To explore for a food source, termites must tunnel through the soil in the area around their colony and may tunnel for distances up to 300 feet from their nest site. The presence of moisture in the soil (which is created by mulch) helps the termites tunneling efforts. Therefore, ANY TYPE OF LANDSCAPE MULCH BE IT WOOD, STONE, OR RUBBER will improve conditions for termite colonies, whether the termites consume the mulch itself or not.
Research has been performed by the Structural IPM Program at the University of Maryland. This research studied the impact of landscape mulches on termite activity in both the laboratory and the field. The study revealed that termites in the field that fed on a steady diet of either eucalyptus, hardwood, or pine bark mulch suffered significantly lower survivorship than did termites in the laboratory that fed on a controlled diet of white birch. These results suggest that even though we may find termites in wood chip mulch, it is unlikely that they feed heavily on organic wood-based materials.
During this research it was also noted that termites were found equally beneath eucalyptus mulch, hardwood mulch, pine bark mulch, pea gravel, and bare, uncovered ground. Termite activity was significantly higher under gravel mulch than the wood based mulches. It was also noted that termites are capable of only consuming certain types of mulch; these include pine bark, pine straw, ground yard waste, and cypress mulch.
Recommendations made by Horticulture experts are to keep your mulch several inches away from the foundation of your house. Never allow mulch to cover windowsills or to contact house siding.