Will mulch attract termites?

Rich e-mailed in this question:

"does putting landscaping mulch around the base of your house increase risk of termites?"

This is something that you will sometimes see claimed in advertising for pest control companies. Most kinds of mulch have wood in them, and they've also got moisture (which termites need to thrive). The short answer is that no, using mulch won't increase the risk that termites are going to come to your house. This website discusses a study that was done showing that termites benefit from mulch about as much as they do soil in general.

Basically, they can't get much nutritional benefit from mulch and it isn't a good food source for them.

However, it does create a damp, moist area (good conditions for them to live in).

They aren't attracted to it and don't specifically seek out yards with mulch in them.

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You do want to take some precautions with it, though. Keep it at least a few inches away from the foundation of your house and don't let it touch any wooden parts of the home. You don't want them connecting directly because it can work like a mud tunnel, the way termites cross into your home (a protected, moist pathway for them to walk through). Because what helps them is the moisture, it isn't going to help you to try to buy mulch that doesn't have wood in it.

One other thing: there are some sites on the Internet that say that mulch can actually have termites in it when you buy it. There was a rumor going around that Formosan termites have been spread from people buying mulch. This was false - mulch is created by grinding wood up at high temperatures that would kill any termites inside.

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