Do Termites Like Cypress Mulch? Surprising Truths About Cypress Mulch

Cypress mulch is another staple for a lot of yards out there. Its dark color gives a sharp contrast to flowering plants and vibrant leaves.

At first glance, it may look amazing, but how much do you really know about it? Is it true that termites like cypress mulch? Or are there other factors that lead to termites living under it? Read along to find out.

Do termites like cypress mulch?

Homeowners like cypress mulch because of how it looks, rustic and dark. CC Image courtesy of Christopher Sessums on Flickr

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What’s cypress mulch?

Just in case you don’t already know, cypress mulch is from bald cypress trees and pond cypress trees. These trees are cut down and ground up to make the chips or shreds that you usually put in your garden. It’s popular in many parts of the US mostly because it’s very cheap and easy to get.

Do termites like cypress mulch?

For a lot of scenarios, the concern for mulch and termites isn’t really about the wood itself but about the moisture that the wood gathers. While this may be true for pine straw mulch, the cypress mulch’s case is a bit more complicated.

Like pine straw, cypress gathers up moist and attracts a lot of bugs. As the mulch covers the soil, rain and dew get soaked up. All that water is then held inside the soil. This may be awesome for your hydrangeas and camellias, but it’s also ideal for subterranean termites. These bugs love moist soil because it’s perfect for nest or colony building.

The cypress tree itself is a 50/50 case for the termites. Only some parts of the cypress repel termites because of their smell. According to Terminix, termites eat cypress sapwood, but they don’t consume cypress heartwood because it can potentially kill them. So you’re in a safer zone if the mulch you spread in your yard is made from cypress heartwood.

But remember that termite “resistant” does not mean termite “proof”. According to the Journal of Agriculture from the University of Florida, cypress heartwood can still be eaten by subterranean termites like any other mulch or wood. The insects will eat it if the situation makes them, like if there isn’t enough food around. With that, we can safely say that “termites like cypress mulch” is technically not true, but IT CAN STILL HAPPEN. 

If you want to see how other mulches performed in the study, you can look at the graph here.

3 reasons not to use cypress mulch

Do termites like mulch? This habitat is destroyed for cypress mulch.

This entire area of the forest is destroyed just for cypress mulch. Image courtesy of Robert Anderson, USDA Forest Sevice on  Garden Biotics

We know that cypress mulch has some benefits, but this convenient garden accessory actually has a dark origin.

For Garden Biotics, cypress trees aren't a sustainable resource. Here the major reasons for staying away from cypress mulch:

  • Cypress mulch isn’t that effective anyway. It’s dense, and it holds more water than other mulches. This makes the soil too moist and not conducive for growing plants. You can do better with dead leaves.
  • Since it’s so dense, this mulch is the heaviest to work with. You’ll need a lot of man power, time and effort to get things done in the yard.
  • It’s not renewable. An entire ecosystem is destroyed just for that sack of mulch in your yard. A whole area of a forest is cleared up just for harvesting the mulch, leaving many animals without a home. Other trees that grow along with it are also collected for lumber.
  • There are other cheaper and more useful mulches like pine straw that can give the same effects.

Cypress mulch isn’t as great as what its reputation tells us. Termites may not like eating it, but it’s been proven that they will consider it lunch when they’re out of options.

So if you’re looking for something like cypress. Choose pine straw. It’s as termite-resistant but guilt-free. Why not use that option instead?

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