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Termites and Carpenter Ants in Mulch

What do I think about mulch and termites?  Well, I've got it around my house, if that tells you anything, and I'm not worried....

Mulch, of course, is designed to hold moisture, and mulch is generally made from some kind of wood, so you do have at least two of the requirements that both termites and carpenter ants need.  But, when you think of it, those two things are all over the place. Wooden artifacts you can't see, buried under the ground, sustain our termites quite well - even without your house.  Termites have been around here hundreds of millions of years, they were here first, and they'll be here when we're gone.

Sometimes, however, mulch is delivered with termites, this can happen too, very common, we see it all the time.  But these termites are easily routed, and it's not really a problem most homeowners should worry about.  Most of the time they are only workers and will probably be unable to do any "damage" or propagate supplemental reproductives, to start a new, successful colony.  You could also see the alates, (swarmers) but they are even less of a worry.  

So with the mulch, let me put it this way: You could REMOVE both of those items and STILL get termites and/or carpenter ants.  So I don't necessarily think you need to remove mulch to eliminate problems from these two pests.  And if you're really concerned, there is a TREATED mulch, it's kinda expensive, but it's supposed to work, (against termites) I have never used it, myself.  It has to be used carefully, it can damage some shrubs.  It is treated with an insecticide.

But sometimes you might have a problem. And if you do, it's better to do habitat adjustment/alteration, instead of chemical treatment(s). And that's certainly better than hosing everything down with some of those strange-sounding insecticides. There are several ways to do this, here's one way:

Clean everything all out, all your mulch that abuts the structure. Clean it all out, right down to bare earth, scrape it clean.  Put down about two inches of sterile sand (play sand).  Then put down pierced (thick) mil plastic sheeting.  On top of that, half to three-quarter inch stones, about 2-3 inches thick.  For a finish job, put down enough pea gravel to cover the stones - a lot of the pea gravel will fall down between the stones.  After awhile, it will all "lock" into place.  There you are, no good habitat for the ants. Or many other insects either.

If you DO use chemicals, they would be applied to the bare earth, before you put down the plastic or the gravel. If you plan to use chemicals, I advise using a pro. He can adjust the chemical and the application to conform to the local conditions around your house. There are many variables to consider, so I can't advise as to exactly what you should use. Since the exterminator you pick will be familiar with the treatment site, he will make that decision based on the present condition.

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