Pine straw is one of the most popular mulches in the US. Its eco-friendly nature, amazing use for landscaping and rustic autumn feel make it a staple for every garden.
However, if you’re thinking of buying a sack or two right now, hold on for just a few seconds. Know that bugs love this mulch as much as we do. And by bugs, we mean termites.
Still, a lot of homeowners don’t believe that pine straw gets termites. So is this true? Do termites like pine straw mulch? Let’s find out.
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What’s pine straw mulch?
Pine straw mulch comes from pine needles. These are dead needles that fall from pine trees. And since producers don’t need to cut down trees to get them, this mulch is considered eco-friendly.
Homeowners use pine needles to protect soil from erosion and to regulate its temperature. This mulch is mostly placed on slopes and hills because its needles interlock and keep the soil from eroding away.
What’s so great about pine straw?
Pine straw has a lot of benefits. Pinestraw.com gave us these major advantages in using the mulch:
- A lot of shrubs, flowers and other plants grow well with pine straw. Some of these wonderful fauna are azaleas, camellias, hydrangeas, magnolias, snapdragons and geraniums.
- Pine straw helps protect your yard against the cold weather. A 6-inch thick blanket of the mulch can guard tree and plant roots from the cold. (Note that this may attract termites.)
- Like any other mulch, it can suppress weeds from germinating. Pine straw prevents sunlight from ever reaching the soil underneath, so infant weeds won’t have a chance at growing.
- This mulch is great for places with strong winds. Because the needles interlock, they won’t get blown away like ordinary leaves.
- It doesn’t get washed away either. Quite the contrary, these needles absorb rain water, and they keep it locked away in the soil without threat from evaporation and drying out.
- It’s great for foot traffic like in play areas.
- And finally, according to Nola.com, pine straw mulch has a very low cellulose count. This means that it’s termite resistant. Technically, it’s a myth to think that termites like pine straw.
Do termites like pine straw?
Speaking of termites, does this mean that pine straw is never in their dinner plans?
Note that we didn’t use the word “proof”. Pine straw mulch is only “resistant” to termites because there’s still a chance that these insects will eventually eat and live under it.
It’s not actually the needles themselves that can invite termites. Like cypress mulch and as we mentioned previously, pine straw absorbs and hold water. It keeps the soil under it very moist. Termites love moisture. Subterranean termites, in particular, thrive in moist soil.
This also doesn’t mean that termites won’t eat pine straw. In fact, a study from the Journal of Agriculture from University of Florida pitted different mulches against each other. And it found out that when push comes to shove, pine straw, like any other mulch, does get eaten by subterranean termites.
But luckily, it is more resistant to those pesky insects. Compared to eucalyptus, pine sapwood and pine bark, pine straw doesn't get that much.
You can look at how the other mulches performed here.
How do you keep pine straw in your yard?
So how do you keep pine straw when you know it will still attract termites?
For Vulcan Termite, it’s really just about placement. Where and how you put the mulch affects your yard and your house. If you put it in the wrong corner, it can easily just become a busy hub for insects. And if you put it too thick, that’s also equally bad.
Here’s what you should do instead:
- Don’t let the mulch touch your house. Stop the mulch line at least 1-2 feet away from the foundation.
- Make a barrier between the mulch and the house. Pea gravel is a good option for this.
- 6-inch deep pine straw may help your plants from the cold, but it’ll make an attractive spot for termites. Instead, cover the ground with 2-3 inches of the stuff.
- Choose long or standard length pine needles. The heavier and longer those needles are, the better they interlock against each other.
So technically, the thought that termites like pine straw mulch is not true. But they will eat it when they don’t have enough food.
Termite repellant garden accessories don’t mean that they can keep these insects out forever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. Termite treatments work with mulches, so you can keep the attractive landscape and none of the awful bugs.