Does Mulch Attract Insects?
September 22, 2020
Mulch benefits your Scottsdale garden and landscaping in a variety of ways. It helps your landscape look clean and tidy, it suppresses weeds, and it retains moisture to help your plants grow. But can mulch attract bugs? Yes, it can.
The mulch itself isn’t what attracts the insects and other pests to your garden. However, it provides insects already in the vicinity with a hospitable environment.
There are all sorts of reasons that bugs like mulch. If your location experiences frequent rain, or if there’s an area where you mulch that often retains water and doesn’t dry out, you may notice increased insect activity in the mulch. If you over-apply mulch, it also can turn into an environment that retains a lot of water and invites insects to live underneath.
Let’s look at the types of pests and insects in Scottsdale that are attracted to mulch and why. We’ll also explain the varieties of mulch insects are attracted to and explore types of pest-resistant mulch.
There’s much confusion surrounding mulch and termites. Some people mistakenly think mulch contains termites. Others believe it attracts them. While there is a clear link between mulch and termites, that link confuses many.
Does Mulch Attract Termites?
Yes. Termites aren’t drawn to the mulch itself but instead to the moist, cool protection it provides. You can find them in similar numbers beneath wood, gravel, bark, and rubber mulch, but fresh wood chips could be an added “food source” attraction.
Why Are Termites Attracted To Mulch?
Landscaping mulch keeps the environment moist. This is a benefit of mulch since this moisture is perfect for growing flowers, shrubs, trees, and grass.
But termites are attracted to this moisture as well as various other bugs and insects. This moist environment motivates termites to dig thin tunnels to explore the area and look for food, i.e., wood. Mulch provides Arizona termites with cover while they explore.
What Types of Mulch Are Termites Attracted To?
Termites prefer some types of wood, while other types actually repel them and may even be toxic to them. Types of mulch they prefer are:
- Loblolly pine: Eastern subterranean termites tend to like loblolly pine and slash pine.
- White birch: White birch makes a standard food source for termites.
- Slash pine: According to several studies, slash pine is favored by subterranean termites.
When you put down wood mulch, ants don’t necessarily migrate toward it. They’re already in your soil, and once they come across your mulch, they like it and decide to stick around.
Does Mulch Attract Ants?
Carpenter ants are fairly good at detecting decaying wood, or wood mulch, from certain smells, making wood mulch an attractive place to hang around.
Why Are Ants Attracted To Mulch?
Ants, particularly carpenter ants, love wood. The amount of wood you have around on your property can either discourage or encourage these insects. A great example of this is mulch. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use mulch. You’ll just want to put down mulch in a manner that’s less encouraging to the ants. The shallower your mulch is, the better. Ants like to build their nests in wood, so if your bed of mulch is shallow, they might look elsewhere for something better.
What Types of Mulch Are Ants Attracted To?
Types of mulch ants prefer are:
- Organic: Although organic mulches could offer benefits that non-organic mulches don’t, these same benefits may turn negative, since the organic mulch can often attract ants and provide insects a place to live.
- Wood: The ants don’t eat wood. They use solid or decaying wood as a foundation for building their tunnels in. A wood chip pile doesn’t have the necessary structure for ants to build a tunnel in.
You don’t add mulch to plants to keep them warm, and plants don’t require it. You mulch plants to keep the soil surface a more consistent temperature during the winter, preventing heating and thawing that could occur when you go back and forth from unseasonable warm spells and freezing cold. Unfortunately, mulch is a warm spot for mice.
Does Mulch Attract Mice?
Mice like to chew away at the unseen tasty outer bark. And, because the mulch covers them, they’re not seen by free-roaming animals that like to prey on them, like cats, owls, hawks, and foxes. When you mulch your garden or landscape, you’re basically “inviting” mice to sleep in a cozy warm place.
Why Are Mice Attracted To Mulch?
Mulch encourages mice to feel protected and nest. Voles, or field mice, are well-known for eating plant roots, tubers underground, and spring bulbs. They also chew on tree bark and shrubs, particularly over the winter. When you add mulch over the base of trees, you’re inviting this type of damage because you’re offering protection from predators.
What Types Of Mulch Are Mice Attracted To?
Mice prefer these types of mulch:
- Organic mulch: While mulch is effective at controlling weeds, organic mulch forms can also be ideal areas for pests to live, nest, and breed. When you place organic mulch too close to your home, it provides mice with hidden opportunities to get inside your home.
- Wood mulch: Wood mulch is home to all kinds of rodents.
- Straw or fluffy mulch: Avoid using any fluffy mulch or straw mulch in the garden, since it provides nesting places.
Some types of organic mulch provide crucial nutrients to soil while stopping soil evaporation. Also, mulch provides plants with enough time to absorb moisture before draining from the area. But certain types of organic mulches might invite issues with cockroaches because these insects are attracted to decomposing materials. If you place mulch too close to your house, roaches attracted to the mulch could enter your home in search of sustenance and shelter.
Does Mulch Attract Roaches?
Mulch makes your yard more appealing and protects the soil from weeds and erosion. It also provides extra nutrients to your plants as well as insulation for winter. But roaches exploit this, building their nests in mulch, infesting your yard, and gradually taking over your home.
Why Are Cockroaches Attracted To Mulch?
Some cockroaches are biologically attracted to wood shavings and chips. They also like the moisture, and mulch provides them with good hiding places.
What Types Of Mulch Are Cockroaches Attracted To?
Types of mulch that roaches like are:
- Bark shavings: Bark shavings and chips attract roaches because certain roach species are naturally wood-loving insects. Roaches feed on decaying wood. They live in the mulch because bark chips provide them with good cover for shelter, moisture, and enough space for breeding.
- Pine straw mulch: Pine straw mulch is also vulnerable to cockroaches. It provides roaches what bark mulch can give them. It traps moisture underneath and provides shelter. However, this mulch is so ideal to roaches because it’s made from lightweight pine needles the cockroaches can dig through easily. The Smokybrown cockroach is one roach species that likes staying in pine straw mulch.
While mosquitoes will naturally reproduce and live in specific locations, some factors will increase the number of these pests in your yard.
Does Mulch Attract Mosquitoes?
There are a few species of mosquitoes in Scottsdale that could live in mulch. They’re attracted to wet mulch. The mulch requires just a bit of moisture to become attractive, and mosquitoes instinctively know if the mulch provides them with enough moisture to lay their eggs.
Why Are Mosquitoes Attracted To Mulch?
It’s the moisture they’re after. Even after a light rain, the wet mulch will appeal to mosquitoes. Even though the aroma of cedar repels mosquitoes, if the oil dries up, the mulch doesn’t function as a repellent any longer.
What Types Of Mulch Are Mosquitoes Attracted To?
Mosquitoes are attracted to:
- Wet mulch: Wet mulch holds enough moisture below the surface for attracting mosquitos. Once the mosquitos find an area that’s moist enough for laying their eggs, they’ll nest there, and other mosquitos will show up.
Since mulch conserves moisture, it's an appealing nesting area for insects, particularly spiders. When individuals mulch around their home’s foundation, it’s inevitable the spiders nesting in the mulch will crawl around and find their way through this foundation, especially if it’s wood chip mulch, which holds the most moisture.
Does Mulch Attract Spiders?
Around a home, ornamental mulch is typically a good thing. But, unfortunately, to spiders, it’s also a good thing.
Why Are Spiders Attracted To Mulch?
Spiders like wood dust. It also attracts other insects that spiders eat. Even cedar mulch, which repels some other insects, doesn’t bother spiders. Spiders aren’t insects but instead arachnids. They don’t have the same metabolisms as insects, and what might repel certain insects won’t bother a spider.
Again, moisture plays a factor here, too. Most insects need moisture so their bodies won’t dry out. Spiders are no different. Mulch also provides good shelter, warmth, and hiding places.
What Types of Mulch Are Spiders Attracted To?
- Pine bark mulch: This is added to home gardens to prevent weed growth and retain moisture. While organic mulches naturally decompose and are beneficial, they also attract insects looking for warmth, shelter, and food. Insects eat the pine bark mulch along with the bacteria and fungi harbored within its moist, dark confines. Pests that aren’t true insects but are linked with infestations include spiders.
- Wood mulch: Wood mulch provides a habitat for spiders during the winter. Most spiders are actually beneficial because they keep other pests in check, but some are pests themselves—you’ll end up with a lot more spiders around with wood mulch than without.
Types Of Pest-Resistant Mulch
When choosing mulch for your landscaping needs, there are many different choices. While all mulches have advantages and disadvantages, some types will benefit your plants by deterring unwanted pests. So, let’s take a look at the best mulch to avoid termites and other pests.
You can break mulch down into two categories: organic and inorganic.
Organic mulch is a byproduct of natural sources like:
Inorganic mulch usually consists of man-made products like:
Organic mulch is great for your yard, but it can attract insects. As it breaks down, it improves the soil’s chemistry, thereby boosting the number of helpful fungi, bacteria and insects. Of course, some of these insects are welcome, like spiders, which keep populations of plant-destroying, harmful insects at bay. Some organic mulches, like compost, can attract insects like earwigs, saw bugs or pill bugs.
This is an inorganic product made from polyethylene that comes in aluminum-coated, black or clear sheets. The aluminum-coated and clear plastics work best at controlling bugs because they reflect the sunlight. While creating a reflection, plastic mulch blinds and confuses insects, which causes them to stay away from ornamental plants and gardens. Use plastic mulch to keep whiteflies, aphids and leafhoppers under control.
Cedar Or Cypress Mulch
Chip or bark mulch is made from cypress or cedar trees and is very helpful for repelling bugs. Both cypress and cedar contain natural chemicals and oils like thujone that deter insects. Cedar chips repel, inhibit, or kill insects like:
- Certain ants
- Carpet beetles
- Cloth-eating moths
Termites eat cypress sapwood, but they don’t eat cypress heartwood mulch because it could kill them. You’re in a safer place if you spread cypress heartwood mulch in your yard.
Spread cypress or cedar mulch around your landscape plants or garden to keep insects away. This wood is also resistant to decay, which allows it to last longer than other mulches.
Straw & Cocoa Bean Shells
Straw mulch is effective in the garden for decreasing insect population and keeping insects like cucumber beetles away from your squash and cucumber plants. It also deters insects from laying eggs and multiplying around and in your garden. Also, straw mulch protects your plants from fungus and other conditions that cause plant rot.
Cocoa bean shell mulch emits a chocolate scent around your landscape that deters insects. It also keeps termites and slugs away from your plants. But don’t use this mulch if you have pets, as it could make dogs sick.
Call Green Home Termite & Pest Control Today
Now you know the different types of pests that can hide away in your mulch and which types of mulch can help repel them. If you notice ants, termites, or other pests in or around your mulch, Green Home Termite & Pest Control can help. We’re based in Phoenix and are one of the top-rated pest control companies in the area. We use safe products, and you can feel confident we’ll get the job done.
To learn more about our pest control services for Scottsdale, Phoenix, and the surrounding areas including home pest control, commercial pest control, and rodent control, get in touch with us today!