University of Florida

Termites in Mulch?

Rumors have spread on the Internet concerning termites being spread throughout the country by large chain stores via bags of landscape mulch. Get the facts here.

Survival: Unlikely

Termites can be found in mulch, but the likelihood of their survival is poor.

  1. The ability of the termites to survive the chipping process to create mulch is not good.
  2. Once separated from the colony, their ability to survive further decreases.
  3. Even when termites are found in mulch, termites are not as likely to be sustained by a diet of mulch as by their normal diet.

A bigger risk to structures is from termites already established in your yard.

Transportation Through Wood Chunks

Another problem more common than termites in mulch is their spread through the transport of large chunks of wood--such as railroad ties used in landscape or salvaged timbers from razed structures--that contain enough Formosan subterranean termites to sustain reproductive forms.

Incorrect Mulch Use & Termite Infestations

This is not to say that termites are not found in association with mulch. Mulch does contribute to termite infestations, but not because invasive species are spread with it. Mulch increases the ability of termites to survive where they are already established by keeping the soil moist and temperatures moderate.

Mulch laid too thickly (>4–6") can also provide a bridge over the treated perimeter of a house, allowing termites to walk over from landscape to house and avoid contact with soil treated with termiticides.

Using Mulch Properly

Mulch is useful in keeping mud from splashing up against a house. If mulch is part of your landscape, it is recommended that a thin layer (<2") of mulch be placed within twelve inches of the foundation to allow the soil beneath to naturally dry. Desiccation is the termite's worst enemy. Also avoid watering next to foundation walls.

Finally, maintain termite protection measures for your house. Protection measures most commonly include soil treatments, bait systems, or wood protection measures. (Remember to use a licensed and reputable pest control company.) Also, avoid wood-to-ground contact, and store mulch off the ground.

For more information about integrated pest management (IPM), visit IPM Florida.

Adapted from:

The Facts About Termites and Mulch (ENY-832) by Faith M. Oi and Marsha Wheeler. Published by: Entomology and Nematology Department (3/2007).


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