The connection between mulch and termites is a topic of swirling debate and discussion. Despite claims that mulch attracts termites, in actuality, while it can provide hospitable conditions for them, it is generally not harmful to use mulch. In fact, mulching correctly can help reduce the risk of termite infestations. Mulch is also good for plants and the soil. This has been demonstrated in several studies conducted at agricultural research facilities to explore the links between mulch and termites.
Some people claim that mulch attracts termites by creating a habitat and food source. This is only true if the mulch is damp and this requires a thick layer of mulch, something not generally recommended for mulching anyway. People who apply mulch sparingly should not have to worry about termites, as the mulch will stay too dry for termites to be comfortable. In addition, layers of dry mulch placed near, but not directly against, the foundations of a house can keep the soil around the house drier and limit opportunities for termites to enter.
When applying mulch in general, it is important to layer it thinly to facilitate drainage and keep the underlying soil healthy. If mulch is applied in thick layers, it can become a home for termites, although termites will not make a beeline for it. Termites will only infest mulch if they are already present in the general vicinity. Claims that mulch and termites are a poor mix are usually the result of poorly-applied mulch exacerbating an existing termite problem.
People concerned about mulch and termites because of a current termite issue can take several steps to avoid turning their gardens into a harbor for pests. Mulch should be applied in a thin and even layer and it should be kept at least a foot (about 30 centimeters) away from foundations, decking, siding, and other components of a structure. It is also advisable to avoid watering directly around the foundations of a house to keep the mulch dry, and to trim foundation plantings away to create plenty of light and air circulation. This will keep conditions dry, deterring termite visitors.
The bottom line on mulch and termites is that mulch does not attract termites, and people who use mulch shouldn't worry about termites unless they already have a termite problem. Generally, it is advisable to apply mulch in thin layers and to make sure it does not directly contact the foundations of a house. As long as these directives are followed, using mulch is perfectly safe and can even prevent termite invasions.