How Did The “Termites In Mulch” Myth Start?
The question of whether or not mulch can contain termites has been answered by experts repeatedly over the years. This question has also been explored by this blog in the past. Anybody who has researched this topic for themselves has learned that termites cannot, in fact, be found living within store-bought mulch. There are a variety of factors that make termite-infested bags of mulch a near certain impossibility. Despite the fact that this myth has been debunked by experts over and over again, it continues to persist. But how did this myth start? Strangely enough, the Louisiana State Agricultural Center posted a warning on their website back in 2005 and 2006 warning people about the risks of exporting termite-infested mulch from several counties within the state. During this time all exports that contained wood or cellulose material were to be prevented from leaving certain counties in Louisiana following the Katrina and Rita hurricanes. Obviously, this quarantine caused concern among many gardeners and landscapers around the United States. But even more damaging than the Ag center’s warning was an email that had been circulated to citizens all over the US. This email specifically mentioned popular home improvement stores as possibly selling termite-infested mulch that had been imported from Louisiana. This email began to circulate shortly after the LSU Ag Center announced their quarantine of wood-containing materials.
The quarantine announcement that was posted by LSU aimed to prevent wood that had been infested with Formosan subterranean termites from leaving areas of Louisiana. The wood that had been categorized as a risk included mulch, but there was no mention of termite-infested mulch showing up in major home improvement chain locations, like Home Depot. This is because termites cannot survive the various stages that mulch processing goes through before it is bagged and shelved for sale in stores. Selling quarantined wood from Louisiana as a material to create mulch would have been illegal at the time. It is possible that some quarantined wood may have been sold illegally as mulch to smaller retailers. The viral email was misleading and downright false, as it suggested that termite-infested mulch imported from Louisiana was being sold at large retailers. In fact, one major mulch retailer, Home Depot, only sells mulch that has been certified by the Mulch and Soil Council (MSC). This council does not, nor ever has, certified mulch from the New Orleans area. Some experts insist that there have been rare cases in which termites have traveled in bags of mulch during shipping. However, even in these cases, it is virtually impossible that the termites would still be living within the bags of mulch once they arrived in stores. Although the email’s claims have been debunked as false by many experts, the consequences of the email are still present in the fears of many gardeners and landscapers today.
If you have used mulch for several years, do you remember when the “termite in mulch” scare was at its height?