How to Get Rid of Bugs in Mulch in 2023?

Mulch is awesome. However, it has some drawbacks. One of these is that bugs love it. While it’s great for around your plants, mulch offers the perfect place for bugs to breed. Eventually, these bugs will make their way into your plants and find a great lunch spot. If you really let them get bad they may even enter your how. So… the question is, how to get rid of bugs in mulch?

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.

Two Japanese Beatles attack a flower
The unfriendly face of a Japanese Beattle.

Does Mulch Attract Bugs? 

There are two different types of mulch. One is more likely to attract bugs than others.

Organic Mulch

Yes, organic mulch does attract bugs. Specifically, it can attract ants, cockroaches, millipedes, centipedes, spiders, sowbugs, and earwigs. Most of these bugs eat mulch, which contains organic matter that’s rich in nutrients. If the bugs aren’t disturbing your plants (or you), it may be easier to leave them.

Rumor has it mulch can bring termite colonies to your house. However, in reality, the likelihood of this actually happening is pretty low. Either way, to mitigate this risk I recommend leaving your mulch in the sun before spreading it if you’re worried about pests. Any bugs will be killed once the mulch hits 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Inorganic Mulch

Inorganic mulches are much less likely to draw above-ground pests. That is because they don’t contain any nutrient-rich materials that bugs love so much. Still, if you’re that worried about pests, I recommend purchasing this inorganic mulch instead. It contains naturally bug-repellent ingredients to keep your garden safe from bugs.

Now, let’s take a deeper look at specific bugs that are attracted to mulch. More importantly, how to get rid of bugs in mulch!

Many different kinds of brightly colored bugs

Different Insects Attracted to Mulch

There are plenty of bugs that are attracted to mulch. Here they are:


Ants frequently live under organic mulches because it provides protection and humidity. While there are easier and less expensive ways to deal with ants, I recommend using an organic pesticide. It’s the safest way to remove ants without damaging your plants.

Another method I’ve used involves two anthills. I simply pick up one anthill with my shovel and set it on top of another anthill. When two ant colonies clash, you will find that within a day or two, all the ants have either died or have fled to another location. Just make sure you have thick gloves when doing this.


If most of your house is wood, termites can be a major concern. If you didn’t know, they eat wood (and, in turn, your house). Termites typically move into mulch if it is primarily formed of wood chips (like cedar mulch).

Similarly, 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 (like 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 replace the compost with grass mulch. 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 your compost. However, the biggest reason that flies are present is because of your kitchen scraps.

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.

We really like using 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 usually beneficial for 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 spides 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. If you’re seeing a few flying around your home, there’s most likely a nest nearby. While they don’t typically live in mulch, they may find food in it.

To get rid of yellowjackets and wasps, you’ll need to use a flying insect spray (we think Raid works the best). Additionally, since dead bugs like slugs, snails, and beetles are what attract wasps, you should try to keep your mulch clear.


While it’s rare, bees can sometimes 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. 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! Seriously, mosquitos are likely reproducing in your mulch.

Typically this is due to two reasons:

  1. Your mulch is packed too thick.
  2. Your mulch is saturated with water and needs to dry out.

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 location (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 the 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.

To get rid of ticks, you don’t need to remove the mulch. Instead, you should spray your plants with tick repellent. You can also make an all-natural one yourself.

Final Thoughts 

As you can see, how to get rid of bugs in mulch is not that difficult. However, you will need to move quickly, especially if you have a large garden. When there are no other options, bug repellents and insecticides should be employed; nevertheless, most of the time, replacing the mulch will eliminate the bugs.

Interested in reading more about gardening? Check out our library of free resources.

How to get rid of bugs in mulch

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