Bug Blog

The Moisture That Builds Up In The Soil Below Lawn Mulch Often Attracts Termites Directly To A Home’s Structural Wood

Now is the time of year in Arizona when residents can find large clouds of swarming termites flying erratically in the sky. During the late spring and summer seasons in the state, winged termites (alates) of multiple species take to the skies in an effort to establish colonies in new areas of land. With the exception of the queen and king, the winged alates are generally the only reproductive termites produced within a colony. It is the alates that mate and establish new colonies as queens and kings.

As you may guess, finding swarming alates within or near your home indicates that a termite colony is dangerously close to your house, and may already exist below the surface of your lawn. However, homeowners will be pleased to know that termite alates are among the poorest fliers of all insects. This is due to their clearly aimless and erratic flying style, which does not carry the fertile winged termites far. In fact, the vast majority of alates within a swarm parish before securing a mate, so unlike the well hidden subterranean termite workers that forage safely below the ground, the life of an alate is short, unsatisfying and largely tragic. It should also be noted that most termite infestations begin once a foraging worker stumbles upon a home’s structural wood. When this occurs, the worker emits pheromone signals that attract additional colony members to the home.

Termite infestations can last for years before being discovered by homeowners, as most infestations first take form beneath subflooring or within wall-voids located beneath first floor windows. These locations allow termites to easily remain hidden within a home. It takes around five years of colony-maturation before swarms emerge from infested areas of a home, and it is often at this point when homeowners discover an infestation. Five years is more than enough time for termites to inflict enough damage to warrant renovations, but keeping moisture levels low around your home’s foundation can go a long way toward discouraging termites from settling within your home.

Placing a blanket of mulch against a structural foundation is one of the most overlooked ways in which homeowners allow moisture to build up around their home, and termites crave this moisture. Obviously, wood-mulch attracts termites directly to a home, and in some cases, mulch provides termites with a direct pathway between soil and structural wood. But most importantly, a layer of mulch prevents moisture from escaping from the soil surrounding a home’s foundation. This moisture retention nearly guarantees a termite infestation, especially during monsoon season.

Have you ever considered lawn-mulch to be potentially harmful due to the possibility that it may attract wood-eating insect pests?