Mulch is one of the most attractive landscaping elements that you can use to really make your property pop. It’s also a valuable resource in and around your garden since it can help suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.
But, nobody likes to see hordes of bugs crawling through your mulch, and it rarely fails that more insects seem to appear shortly after you put down mulch.
The question is obvious: does mulch attract bugs?
Mulch is not a true attractant for bugs, but it does create conditions that many bugs prefer to live in, providing shelter and shade for bugs as well as cover from predators. However, having various bugs in your mulch can be beneficial for soil and your local ecosystem.
I’m happy to report that the vast majority of the time having insects crawling around in your mulch is no problem whatsoever.
Of course, it depends on the kind of bug, too! Usually it’s nothing you even have to lift a finger over, but having it the wrong kind of bugs or too many bugs in your mulch could spell trouble for your plants and possibly for you.
Keep reading to learn all about it…
What Kind of Bugs Will Mulch Attract?
Bad news for people who are entomophobic! All sorts of insects love to call mulch beds home, or at least a good place to look for food.
Mulch, especially organic mulch, can attract various insects such as ants, termites, beetles, spiders, wasps, earwigs, springtails, millipedes, centipedes and crickets. Then there are all sorts of even tinier creatures that will move in, like mites.
In addition to these beneficial insects, there may be some particular pest species like cutworms or cinch bugs.
Is it Bad for Bugs to Be in Your Mulch?
Not necessarily. However, it’s worth mentioning that not all of these insects are good for plants or for you.
Wasps that build in the ground might shelter under mulch only to come out and swarm you when you least expect it. Crickets, on the other hand, can cause damage to plants by feeding on roots.
Ants that set up shop in mulch near your home invariably find their way indoors, and can become a nuisance.
Termites, of course, are one of the most destructive pests in mulch as they will eat wood, including the wood on your house or furniture if allowed to establish themselves.
The best thing you can do is to identify any problem insects in your mulch before they become a real issue…
Are There Any Benefits to Bugs Being in Mulch?
Yes! Even though mulch can harbor insects, using it correctly can still have many benefits for your garden, including retaining moisture, suppressing weeds, and improving soil health.
Part of this is achieved by the insects themselves!
Some insects are decomposers that eat away at the mulch, breaking it down so nutrients can find their way back into the soil.
This can potentially nourish your plants, and many insects are food for birds and other small creatures that you want to have around. Some, such as ladybugs and other beetles, can act as natural pest control.
Can Bug-Infested Mulch Hurt Your Plants?
Yes, it can. There are many insects that might call mulch home that can damage or kill plants.
For example, cutworms and other caterpillar pests will feed on plant roots and stems, causing the plants to wilt or die.
Chinch bugs are also a potential problem in mulch because they suck sap from grass roots and cause unhealthy patches of lawn due to drought stress or nutrient deficiencies.
As mentioned previously, crickets can also feed on plant roots and cause their wilting or death. Accordingly, it’s important to read up on and be aware of the types of bugs that might be living in your mulch.
Once you know what kind of insects are present, you can take the necessary steps to control their population, but only if needed.
Can Bugs Get into Your Home Through Mulch?
Yes, they can and they will. This is only really like from mulch beds that are adjacent to your home, though.
Insects like ants, termites, earwigs, and centipedes in particular can readily use mulch beds as a beachhead of sorts to enter into your home.
Because of this tendency, keeping a close on mulch right against your house is an important part of your monthly pest control regimen.
Also, you will want to be sure the mulch is not directly touching the house: try to leave a gap of at least 12 inches between your mulch bed and the foundation to reduce incursions.
Is it Possible that Purchased Mulch Has Bugs?
Possible, but highly unlikely if the mulch is bagged. Bagged mulch is subjected to high temperatures and destructive shredding during its processing which almost always kills off any potentially harmful organisms that could be living in it.
However, if you buy bulk-delivered or pickup bulk mulch, then there’s a chance that some insects may be along for the journey and will now inhabit your mulch bed.
This is because bulk mulch stored outside is easily inhabited by all of the same pests that you can find in your own yard, so be sure to inspect it thoroughly before using it.
What Should You Do to Keep Bugs Out of Your Mulch?
To keep bugs out of your mulch, use the correct material for your chosen bed and implement insect control strategies as needed.
Organic materials like woodchips or bark are far more likely to harbor insects than inorganic materials such as pebbles or rubber nuggets.
Of course, organic mulch has much more of the positive attributes we are looking for most of the time, but if you aren’t picky then inorganic mulch can go a long way towards deterring any bug problems.
Also, inspect your mulch regularly for signs of insect activity and take steps to remedy any problem insects or growing populations before they become a real issue.
Standard insecticides can be used as needed, but there are also non-chemical and organic options available.
Diatomaceous earth is a great mix-in for mulch that helps kill off bugs and further improve soil quality, and certain essential oils can be sprayed on top of the mulch to ward off pests without killing them.
Finally, it’s important to remember that all insects are actually beneficial to a healthy ecosystem, and some are friends you want on your side and in your garden!
Ladybugs and praying mantis can all be welcome additions to certain mulch beds so they will eat other insects that will tear up your plants.
Are there Any Kinds of Mulch that are Bug-Resistant?
Yes. As mentioned, inorganic mulch is a far less appealing home to bugs in general. But concerning organic mulches, cedar and cypress are the two most insect-resistant types of wood chips.
Cedar chips contain certain oils that naturally deter bugs so they don’t often make it their home, and cypress is just plain less hospitable to them than other varieties.
Both also have additional benefits such as a pleasant smell, durability and better water retention, making them a great all-around choice for mulch beds if you like the look, can afford them and don’t mind the fragrance.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.