Mulch is awesome. However, mulch does attract bugs. One of these is that bugs love it. While it’s great for around your plants, mulch offers the perfect place for bugs to make a home and have endless babies. Eventually, these bugs will make their way to your plants and eat a delicious garden salad that was supposed to be your lunch!
In this article, you’ll learn just that. We’ll cover what types of bugs mulch attracts and how to prevent each type of common species.
And, if you’re interested in gardening, be sure to check out our library of resources. We answer plenty of questions just like this one.
Do All Types of Mulch Attract Bugs?
Generally speaking, mulch can be broken down into two categories: organic and non-organic. The former is much more likely to attract pests and bugs. Let’s cover why exactly this is the case:
Organic mulch does attract bugs. In fact, it’s much more likely to attract bugs than other types of mulch. Specifically, organic mulch attracts ants, cockroaches, millipedes, centipedes, spiders, sowbugs, and earwigs. These bugs eat wood, grass, leaves, and other materials that make up organic mulch. Specifically, they eat matter that is rich in nutrients.
Rumor has it that organic mulch can bring termite colonies to your house or shed. However, the likelihood of this happening is pretty low. That being said, I recommend airing on the side of caution (because let’s face it – termites are not worth messing around with). To mitigate this potential problem, leave your organic mulch in the sun before you spread it. Any pests will be killed once the mulch hits 120°F.
Inorganic (or non-organic) mulches are mulches that come from artificial ingredients like newspaper, cardboard, and rubber. These non-organic mulches are much less likely to attract bugs, however they still can.
That is because they don’t contain any nutrient-rich materials that bugs love. However, that’s not to say that pests can’t make a home in your inorganic mulch either. That’s why we recommend purchasing an inorganic mulch that contains plant-safe bug-repellent to keep your garden safe from bugs.
What Insects Are Attracted to Mulch?
Unfortunately for your garden, there are plenty of insects that love to eat and find refuge in mulch. Here is our complete list, as well as how you can prevent and successfully exterminate them yourself:
Ants frequently live under organic mulch because it provides protection and humidity. Luckily for anyone dealing with an ant invasion, they’re more of a pest than a destructive force. Still, ants suck. I recommend two different methods to kill off ant colonies in your mulch:
- The easiest way to kill off a colony of ants is to use an organic pesticide. A pesticide like this will destroy any ants without poisoning your plants.
- If you don’t want to use pesticides, then I recommend the two anthill technique. To do this you’ll need two anthills. Simply pick up one anthill with your shovel or gloves and set it on top of the other anthill. When two ant colonies clash, they will fight each other to the death – like little spartan warriors. Just make sure you have a pair of thick gloves or a long shovel when doing this – trust me.
Termites are a major concern. If you didn’t know, they eat wood (and, in turn, your house). They prefer a wood mulch, like cedar.
Termites will feel at home there if there is a nearby food source, such as a shed or something constructed of wood. To eliminate termites in the mulch, you must remove their food source. Therefore if the mulch is made of wood chips, the easiest thing to do is to get rid of it.
Although insecticides can significantly lower the termite population quickly, they are typically only short-term fixes. Replace the wood chip mulch with hay, grass, or rubber mulch.
Roaches prefer to reside in mulch when a lot of food is available. And what do they eat you ask? Well, they love food scraps and other kinds of biodegradable trash. So, if you leave a lot of food scraps in your mulch (if you’re trying to start a compost bin) roaches will have no trouble constructing a nest there, even if it is below the topsoil.
If you’ve already got roaches, you should remove both the compost and the mulch to prevent further issues. Cockroaches won’t consume grass, so replacing the compost with grass mulch is a safe bet. You’ll also notice that the grass mulch won’t attract termites.
If you don’t have cockroaches in your mulch yet, make sure you’re putting your food scraps below another material. That way, bugs and other pests can’t find it as easily.
Flies tend to congregate around mulch if it has food (just like cockroaches). To flies, food is anything from a dead animal to food scraps to compost. Really, they just love anything that smells – so you better start scooping up your dog poop (we love this at-home pooper scooper).
You can get rid of all the flies in your mulch in only a matter of days by removing their food source and spraying the area with an insecticide.
I almost always Spectracide. Not only does it kill pests fast, but it comes in a ready-to-spray bottle – saving you all that money from buying a spray bottle as well.
Since spiders are mostly predators, they are generally beneficial for your mulch. However, if you don’t want them in your mulch, you must use a spider-specific insecticide. With that being said, we highly suggest you keep the spiders in your mulch. They eat other pests such as flies, ants, and even roaches.
Additionally, as most spiders prefer darkness, eliminating the top layer of mulch may help your spider problem. Just be careful that they aren’t poisonous.
Yellowjackets and Wasps
Wasps suck. And if you’ve ever been stung you know what we’re talking about. If you’re seeing a few flying around your home, there’s most likely a nest nearby. While wasps don’t typically live in mulch, they may find food in it. Some types of wasps, like mud wasps, can dig holes and live in mulch.
To get rid of yellowjackets and wasps, you’ll need to use a flying insect spray (something similar to Raid works well). Additionally, wasps are attracted to dead bugs like slugs, snails, and beetles – so keep your mulch clean.
While it’s rare, bees can establish colonies inside mulch. Usually, this only occurs if your mulch is piled high around trees or is relatively deep. The good news is that bees always follow their queen, so if you relocate the queen, the bees will follow.
For this, you should enlist the help of a beekeeper, as they will typically remove the bees at no cost to you (and may even keep them). That way, you don’t have the blood on an innocent on your hands.
Mosquitoes love moist, dark environments to reproduce. Unfortunately for you, chances are that your mulch is the perfect spot! Check that your mulch isn’t:
- Packed too thick.
- Saturated with water.
To get rid of the mosquitos, we recommend first thinning out your mulch and laying it in the sun. After a few days, you can put it back in its original place in a thin layer (however, it might be easier just to buy some new stuff).
Ticks are one of the worst (and most dangerous) outdoor pests.
They are more drawn to the plants that grow in mulch than they are to the mulch itself. These pesky bloodsuckers frequently climb to the topmost branches and twigs to wait for an animal or a person to pass. Then they’ll clamp in their teeth and get to drinking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Different types of mulch attract different bugs. Generally speaking, organic mulches, such as wood, grass, hay, and leaf mulches, attract more bugs than non-organic mulch. These organic mulches can attract pests such as flies, termites, ants, cockroaches, wasps, ticks, mosquitos, and spiders are attracted to mulch.
You can get rid of most bugs in mulch by spraying it with an organic insecticide or pesticide. Make sure you use a product that is plant and animal-safe so it won’t harm your garden or family pet. If your mulch is infested with pests, the best course of action may be to replace the mulch completely.
As you can see, mulch does attract bugs, but it’s not that difficult to get rid of them! Just remember that the quicker you act, the better – especially if your mulch is near your home, garden, or another structure.
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