Sorry if this is a stupid question, but if anyone knows, I would be most grateful to know this.
I am specifically wondering about cypress mulch.
You want to ask that over at the soil & mulch forum.
Or, you can do a Google search :-) There's a great deal of information out there on this subject and many extension services have informational articles addressing this topic. Not all the info you find online will be accurate, including here on GW, so I'd avoid information from pest control companies whose primary interest is in selling a service rather than providing accurate information.
Here is a link that might be useful: termites and cypress mulch
I am not sure about cypress mulch, but termites love aged hardwood mulch. I would not use it around the house.
My first job out of college was termite exterminator. I do not claim to be an expert, but I know what a termite looks like. I also am (was?) qualified to perform inspections.
I have always used hardwood mulch and have never seen a termite in my beds. Termites have been seen in wood piles and in dead tree stumps.
Termites normally remain underground, within their mud tubes or within a piece of wood. They must remain moist. I have never seen a termite walking about in plain view. They are always inside of something. When they eat wood, they burrow inside and hollow out the piece often leaving little more than a shell.
So, its hard for me to imagine a termite munching on tiny pieces of mulch as if they were potato chips.
Termites here build a mud shell over whatever they want to eat--wood chips, dead grass, even palm tree "bark"--and munch away. I know cedar chips and bark repel them, though sometimes replenishing the cedar scent is necessary, but I don't know about cypress. This question is very interesting to me, since cypress mulch has only recently become available here. Any others with info, please?
Kevin : )
I do appreciate the feedback. I live in coastal SC, and termites are a BIG problem here. I've found quite a variety of opinion on the subject.
Wish I lived in a brick house but no such luck...
I just googled the subject and found this article from University of Kentucky. You might find it helpful. I agree with not everyone's comments being factual. I'm sure we all think we know what we are talking about....but I sure have been surprised to find out that I did'nt have a clue.
Um, ginypenny, what article?
Well, well, that's about right for me. I finally found the original article. Here's the url.
And here's the paragraph that specifically deals with mulch.
"Use mulch sparingly, especially if you already have termites or other conducive conditions. Many people use landscape mulch for its aesthetic and plant health benefits. Excessive or improper usage, however, can contribute to termite problems. Termites are attracted to mulch primarily because of its moisture-retaining properties, and the insulation it affords against temperature extremes. The mulch itself is of poor nutritional quality to termites and a non-preferred source of food. Since the moisture retaining properties of mulch are more of an attractant than the wood itself, it makes little difference what type of mulch is used (cypress, pine bark, eucalyptus, etc.). Contrary to popular belief, crushed stone or pea gravel are comparable to wood mulch in terms of attraction, since they also retain moisture in the underlying soil. Where mulch is used, it should be applied sparingly (2-3 inches is usually adequate), and should never be allowed to contact wood siding or framing of doors or windows."
sorry 'bout the old lady mind slip.
I called our County Master Gardener about this topic. She said to keep any mulch at least 8" from the house and it should be OK.
We get a truckload of mulch free from the local waste facility. We leave it in a pile in the field behind our house for a month or so before spreading. I have definitely seen termites near the bottom of this pile before!! But I've also seen termites in old logpiles & dead tree stumps in our yard, too. We just keep the free mulch for the plants in the yard that are away from the house & keep our fingers crossed.
Good article. When searching for termites, you always look under things. On a sunny day, they can be found under flag stones where they are attracted to the heat. Its not a bad idea to periodically search for mud tunnels running up your foundation, both inside and outside of your home.
Don't fret over a few black winged "termites". They usually aren't termites and their presence doesn't mean you have an infestation. The termites you are looking for, at least in the Northeast, are wingless and cream colored.