Mulch does not directly attract ants, but mulch creates wet, humid conditions that are desirable for ants and a range of other insects, some of which also indirectly attract ants as they act as a food source.
It is no secret that ants love being in moist conditions, mulch just provides them with that and so using certain types of mulch in the garden can end up increasing the ant activity in your house.
Mulch is a very popular material used in giving an extra layer of coating to the garden soil. It has got a wide range of benefits:
- Mulch helps in minimizing the weed growth in the garden.
- It helps in restoring overall health and in enhancing the fertility of the soil.
- It enhances the water retention ability of the soil.
However, some of these benefits can act as a double-edged sword and further lead to an increase in pest activity in your garden if you are not selective about the kind of mulch you are using.
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Why Does Mulch Attract Ants?
Mulch provides ants and all kinds of insects with a humid environment that allows them to thrive. It helps in making the soil in a particular area more livable for them.
Mulch helps in increasing the moisture-holding capacity of the soil and ants just love to thrive in conditions of high moisture.
So, in case your place gets loads of rain every year or you have over applied mulch around your house, you may end up noticing an increase in not just ant activity but in insect activity overall.
What Types of Mulch Attract Ants?
1. Wood Mulch
Wood mulch covers the soil, creating moist conditions that are favorable for insects of all kinds, including ants.
Wood mulch in particular may attract carpenter ants that love building nests in wooden structures. Carpenter ants do not eat wood, they just chew their way through the wood to build tunnels in which they can further build their nests.
The presence of wood in the mulch may attract carpenter ants around your house. They may not find enough wood in the mulch to build their nests in but they can certainly use these wooden constituents as a base for their nest.
Carpenter ants can do serious damage to wooden beams and walls, so if you live in an area with carpenter ants it may be a good idea to avoid using mulch near your house.
Related Article: Are ants dirty?
2. Organic Mulch
There are many different types of organic mulch out there including types made from bark, compost, sawdust, compost, and leaves.
All mulch helps the soil retain moisture, which can attract insects.
In addition, organic mulch is sometimes a food source for insects, especially mulch made from compost or other food sources.
Remember we’re not pest control experts. If you’re worried about ants, make sure to call a qualified pest controller who can help you get rid of them.
What Kind of Mulch Does Not Attract Ants?
The following types of mulch are less likely to attract ants:
- Mulch with a strong fragrance like cedar mulch.
- Organic mulch that are made of tree bark and chips.
- Mulch which is made from straws and shells.
- Inorganic or man-made mulch (e.g. plastic mulch).
How To Keep Ants Out of Mulch
You can help keep ants out of your mulch by choosing a gravel-based mulch or an inorganic mulch, however, these can be costly and have their own drawbacks for example they are not as good for the soil.
You can also explore the use of inorganic mulch for your garden in case you are suffering from heavy ant infestation problems.
However, inorganic mulch has got its own problems and it does not help in boosting soil health as organic mulch does.
Make sure you keep as much distance as possible between the mulch layout and your house. Also always try to buy mulch that is devoid of any sap. The sap produced by certain trees like the pine tree can be sweet and can attract ants.
When applying mulch do not go overboard with it. Apply a thin layer of mulch as ants love to thrive under a thick layer of mulch in the soil.
Explore and deal with ant infestation before applying the mulch in your garden. If you already have ant nests in your place, then applying mulch will only make it worse in most instances.
If you have a heavy ant infestation then it is best to seek professional help. Ants are notoriously difficult to get rid of and some ants can cause damage to your home.
Related Article: Are Ants Attracted to Urine?
How to Get Rid of Ants in Mulch Beds
Note: Use of insecticides and baits or pouring items onto ant nests should only occur after consulting a pest control professional for advice on local regulations and safety requirements.
1. Use Ant Insecticides
Ant insecticides are the most effective way by which you can quickly control the ant infestation problem in your garden.
Although insecticides are effective, they also come with drawbacks.
Along with the ants, insecticides can inadvertently end up killing other insects whose presence is beneficial for the flower beds.
Insecticides contain harsh chemicals that can be toxic to both humans and animals. Hence if you have children or pets, it’s better to avoid insecticides.
2. Use Natural Home Remedies
If you want to avoid the use of insecticides in your garden, you can explore several home remedies that are out there to treat ant infestation issues.
If you can locate their nest or the anthill, things will be much easier for you. You can then pour down boiling water straight into the nest.
You can also mix vinegar or essential oils in the water to further enhance its effectiveness.
However, remember if their nests are located among the flowering plants, avoid mixing vinegar or other remedies, just use plain boiling water because the other options can end up damaging the plants as well.
Your best bet will be to hope that the boiling water will take out the queen ant which is the main reason behind the steady increase in the ant population.
Read More: When does the Queen Ant Leave the Nest?
You can also consider using the peels of citrus fruits along with the water.
Ants hate the strong acidic scents and avoid being in areas with a strong smell. So, you can boil water with orange or lemon peels and pour that water down their nests.
You should wait till the peels are soft and all of its juices have come out.
The downside of using home remedies is that they are not as effective as insecticides.
3. Use Ant Baits
Ant baits are probably one of the best ways to kill ants. It is a slow but effective process of killing ants. The logic is ants will carry off food items mixed with poison into their nests.
The whole colony will fest upon it and as a result will end up dead. It can take a few weeks for the process to take effect.
You can use commercial ant baits however do not use ant bait if you have children or pets as they can be dangerous.
Another option is food-grade diatomaceous earth is non-toxic and kills the ants by drying them out from the inside and is a very effective ant killing technique (always go for the food-grade one which is non-toxic).
Just spread them out around their nest or in the place they loiter around. You can also directly apply them to the anthill. You should wear gloves and respiratory masks to make sure you don’t suffer from any discomfort.
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Does Rubber Mulch Attract Ants?
Rubber mulch does not attract ants however this type of mulch is not soil friendly at all and can be quite harmful to soil health as it doesn’t decompose like organic mulch and hence do not contribute to enhancing the soil quality.
As it doesn’t break down, it’s cheap and doesn’t need to be replaced every year like organic mulch.
How to Kill Ants in Mulch Without Harming Your Roses
You can use ant insecticides to kill ants without harming your flowers. It’s best to spray it around their nests. You can also explore the option of using commercial ant baits as well as diatomaceous earth for this purpose.
If you want to deter ants then you can also regularly spray essential oils like peppermint oil, lavender, citrus all around your flower beds as ants do not like being around strong scents.
Mulch helps in enhancing soil health and plays an important role in improving the growth of plants and trees in your garden. It also helps in improving the overall look of your garden.
The constituent material of the mulch and the fact that they help in retaining soil moisture for a long time can attribute to the fact that they can end up attracting a huge number of pests to your garden.
So you need to be selective about the kind of mulch you want to use and when using them take the necessary measures in place to keep the insects from entering the foundation of your house.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.