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Red Mulch & Insects

By Sylvia Cochran ; Updated September 21, 2017
Cedar blocks
Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Christopher

Garden hobbyists have many options open to them, when it comes to choosing mulch for the landscape. Red is the most striking color in the array of browns; mulch with this color stands out and may offer a unique way of tying the landscape, fence and house colors together. Before going out and buying several bags, learn about red mulch and insects, as this could potentially influence your buying decision.


Jumping spider
Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Thomas Shahan

Mulch helps support an even soil temperature and moisture level. Natural mulch exposed to the sunlight quickly fades to a less attractive gray, while dyed red mulch keeps this coloring for a longer time, sometimes as long as 12 months. Mulch makes a favorable habitat for a variety of insects, such as ground beetles, jumping spiders and centipedes, which prey on--and control--undesirable insects. It also provides a food source to termites and carpenter ants.


Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Tatiana Gerus

Varying raw materials make up red mulch. In some cases it is a mix of artificially dyed waste wood that mimics hardwood mulch. Mulch with a deep red color comes from the eucalyptus tree. When there is a lot of eucalyptus oil in the mulch, it repels insects for a while, until rain washes off the oil. In some cases, red mulch consists of a mix of red cedar and hemlock mulch.


Wood chips
Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Justin Henry

The products that make up the red mulch influence its performance in the landscape. In the case of waste wood, the mulch decomposes more quickly than other mulch materials and, depending on the wood scraps used, is possibly quite attractive to wood-boring insects. Specialty mixes--such as the red cedar and hemlock mulch mix--offer the familiar cedar scent but make the mulch inhospitable to insects due to the hemlock and cedar oils.


Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Penni Janisch

If termites are a primary concern, consider applying mulch made from Melaleuca trees. When tested, this mulch did not attract termites. On the flip side, since termites’ nests are underground and they favor moisture, even the Melaleuca mulch creates a more favorable habitat because of its soil moisture preserving properties. It is noteworthy that other kinds of mulch may not necessarily attract termites either, unless they are already in the area foraging for food.

Plastic Mulch

Tomato harvest
Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of jacki

An alternative to wood-derived red mulch is plastic red mulch. Scientific research cited by the University of Vermont Extension explains that artificial red mulch boosts soil temperatures, which makes it a good choice for use in early season planting beds. There is some speculation that it can increase the harvest of tomato plants, zucchini, and honeydew melons, but results were not uniform. This kind of red mulch is not noted for attracting insects as copiously as its yellow counterpart, but it did attract green peach aphids.


About the Author


Based in the Los Angeles area, Sylvia Cochran is a seasoned freelance writer focusing on home and garden, travel and parenting articles. Her work has appeared in "Families Online Magazine" and assorted print and Internet publications.