does wood chip mulch attract termites?

ursulita(z5 IL)June 21, 2005

I'd love to know what professionals think... is it true?

I found a source of free wood chip mulch... absolutely free to take as much as I want. My yard needs mulching. Is it worth it? or should I get bark mulch? or just continue with grass clippings?

Thanks so much!!!!!

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happyhoe(z6 OH)

no it does not

    Bookmark   June 21, 2005 at 11:51PM
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Odie99(z7a NJ)

It may not attract termites, but unless it has been properly aged, it can steal the nitrogen right out of the soil, Also, depending on what it is made from, it can have diseased wood, or noxious weeds in it that need to be composted before being used. Be careful with the source of free chips.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2005 at 6:25AM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

If the mulch is on the surface, it's effect on the nitrogen levels of the soil is minimal, particularly if the soil has been ammended well with compost.

On the flip side, while mulch doesn't attact termites, it does provide a burrowing medium for rodents, so it's best not to mound it against a foundation where varmints could potentially find their way in.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2005 at 10:27AM
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I read somewhere recently that studies showed that wood chips and bark mulch did not encourage termites. Seems that termites are sort of blindly wandering in search of food and cannot "smell" distant supplies of wood chips. They were more prone to tunnel under rock chips and gravel.

Around here the big problem with free wood chips is that there is always poison ivy bits mixed in.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2005 at 10:30AM
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It looks like hell.

The reason it is free is because it is not valued. Why is it not valued? There has to be a reason, don't you think?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2005 at 8:01PM
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lnscapr(z7 VA)

I did some checking on this for a client a few years ago and recall being advised that shredded hardwood and bark much do NOT attract termites...but that chipped wood definately can. Any entymologists out there?
On a related note...several years ago I bought(on clearance sale) two japanese red maples in 15 gal containers. When I got them home to plant I found the soil in the pots was overrun with termites! I drenched them with insecticide...five years later no sign of termites and gorgeous trees! Strange.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2005 at 8:03AM
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I would've just washed the soil off, which is a good idea anyway. Many plants sold have badly deformed roots, which need to be corrected on trees and shrubs, to prevent them from strangling themselves or falling over later.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2005 at 4:49PM
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juniorballoon(Z8a WA)

Is it possible to describe the corrective procedure?


    Bookmark   June 24, 2005 at 5:44PM
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Perhaps we should just put all those tons and tons of "valueless" hellacious wood chips produced every year directly into the landfills so as not to insult anyone's aesthetic sensibilities.... I'm not sure what that's all about.

Ursulita--of course you can use those free wood chips--they won't attract termites. Obviously they are not the prettiest but they do the mulch thing just fine. Lots of people put down a layer of those and then top with a thin layer of the "pretty" mulch. They also are perfectly fine in more remote areas of the landscape or areas of the garden where plants fill in heavily enough that the mulch ends up not showing anyway.

Mulching is the perfect way to recycle organic materials, be they wood chips, bark, grass clippings, straw, cocoa bean shells, buckwheat hulls etc. You can spend a lot, a little, or nothing.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2005 at 6:01PM
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I'm not telling you not to use it. I'm just pointing out that there must be a reason that it has no value in the market.

I, for one, will not be cutting in line to get some. I'll rather pay $40 per cubic yard for some finely ground pine/spruce/fir/hemlock bark mulch. But, that's just me.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2005 at 10:39PM
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I buy processed, aged wood, bark, leaf mulch from a tree service. They bulk up on their wood chip piles and hire a company to come in and process the pile once a year.

Looks great, dark brown, for one third the price.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2005 at 11:34PM
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No to termites. Any mulch will actually deter insects from your garden. Have you ever watched how busy the ants are in an unmulched garden?
We recently suffered a catastrophic ice storm in our area. I lost every maple and birch on my land as well as several pines, many oak branches and assorted other trees and shrubs.
Rather than add to the environmental problems, I chipped it all myself and am now the proud owner of 3 mountains of mulch.
I know that it leaches nitrogen out of the soil until composted; however, I do not have the luxury or space to do this.I will use it on my new landscape beds after I put down leaf mold and other organic amendments.
My chips are beautiful, smell great and I know where they came from and whose labor created them.
Why in the world would any one buy that gross dyed stuff at a discount store when they can make their own? I also have an electric mulcher that helps nature along by creating fine mulch out of anything in the yard that is not diseased and even some of the larger chips.
If you are concerned about nitrogen loss, use it in a space where nothing ever grew anyway and add some potted plants and a bench. Then you can sit back and let nature do her thing. After all, nature has been working quite well without us, why not let her have this one too.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 7:53AM
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Died suburban bark is on sale at Home Depot for 3.98 a 2 cu ft bag. If you got a dinky sterile yard surrounding your big house this would fit. Country gardens might benefit with a pile of wood mulch for free.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 2:54AM
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Many year ago I amended the clay soil next to my house with redwood mulch. A few years later I had to have my house tented and poison injected into the soil due to numerous subterranean termites entering my house from the area where I put the mulch into the soil. Their tubes were all over the inside of the concrete wall foundation. I don't know if it was because of the shredded wood mulch or whether it was just a coincidence, but I vowed never to do that again.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 10:45AM
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I have never had a problem with termites etc. in wood chip mulch, and I use it extensively. I believe it looks very natural. I have news for some folks I have been in the retail end of plants etc. for many years, if you buy shredded hardwood in a bag you may very well be getting tree trimmings that have been ground again perhaps with some bark product mixed in, but often not. As for the colored mulchs, they are most generally at least around here, ground up pallets etc., which is fine if you like the look it sure beats sending them to the landfill. If it weren't for the free mulch I couldn't have all the beds around my place that I do. I sure don't see that it looks bad, and neither do visitors. I try to get winter chips for mulching when I can as they don't heat up when used fresh, but I use others as well. Also try to get from a service that keeps their chipper blades changed and sharp as the chips are smaller and nicer, dull blades tend to make strips rather than chips. I have found that the big companies tend to keep their blades changed more as it speeds the work, I get a lot from the contractor that does the power companies work.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2009 at 3:23PM
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There are many sites on the web addressing this topic and some say yes and some say no. Some say don't put any kind of wood mulch by your foundation. The science that I have read says that if you have termites in the soil, they will like your new wood chip mulch. If you don't, it will not attract them. Based on the science, the issue is not wood but moisture. You should ensure that the foundation around your house is properly drained. If so, and inch or two of mulch will likely not create an increased risk for termite infestation. I've been using mulch around my house for 20 years (in NC) and have had no termites.

If you want to be on the safe side, you can not put them withing 2-3 feet of your foundation - or if you must for whatever reason, apply an insecticide that will kill any termites around the perimiter of your house (you should be doing this anyway!) I have a half acre landscpape and a tree company removing trees kindly gave me a dump truck full of wood chips. I am using them on my garden "trails" over fabric cloth--they make a wonderful soft walking surface. I am also using them judiciously in an area that I want to look natural. I am putting a light layer on top of fallen leaves - which gives it a nice uniform appearance and prevents the leaves from blowing around. I will likely spread some insecticide in the entire area just to be on the safe side - and if it gets rid of the million tics on my property, that would be a benefit.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 3:50PM
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Wood chips were placed around a new building for our Hospital and we ended up with a lot of Palmetto bug (large roaches, but then we have plenty of them without help, but seemed to provide a location for them.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 1:23PM
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rodco(zone 5)

I cannot say weather or not the mulch attracts termites, but I have found that Termites DO each mulch.
I purchased some bags of top quality mulch in bags last fall. They stayed on my driveway all winter. I dumped them out this Spring and they were Loaded with Termites.

Located in Pennsylvania

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 12:20AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Nitrogen, termites etc. all discussed at document linked to below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Google quick view of Wood Chip Mulch - Landscape Boon or Bane?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 1:22AM
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I've been using free wood chip mulch from local tree care companies for 5 years on our city's landscaping. Most of the providers know that I want cedar or maple chips, so they dump these near my shop for city use. The advantages of free chips? Lots and lots of mulch for free. The disadvantages? Fungus and diseases that are present in chips. So, I have to stay on top of powdery mildew and rusts. I use a broad spectrum fungicide on every flower or shrub that shows signs of disease throughout the growing season. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 1:03PM
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Just loaded up 3 Long bed truck loads of free mulch. Via a highway project which cut down lots of various trees and crudely shredded them.

When I was done I noticed three termites in my truck bed... Thus I am researching what to do now? At the very least I'll be adding some bug killer powder around my house for just in cAse those bugs try to climb my poured concrete foundation and eat my home.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 8:06PM
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I mixed redwood mulch into my clay soil along the side of my house, and got termites in those areas. Had to get poison injected into the soil and have the house tented, cost me $2000 for that mistake.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 11:49PM
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