What Is The Best Mulch To Keep Bugs Away?

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Mulch can help keeps moisture in the soil, improve your soil cool and reduce weeds. It’s often used in gardening and landscaping.

Plus, it can also enhance the beauty of your lawn or garden. 

Unfortunately, some types of mulch can attract bugs and pests because it offers a moist hiding spot for them to nest in. However, certain types of mulch can keep bugs away and some are even deadly to insects.  

There are several types of mulch that can repel bugs, however, the best mulch to keep bugs away is inorganic mulch like rubber or plastic.  

How many different types of mulch are there?

There are essentially two options when it comes to choosing mulch: Organic and inorganic. 

Both types of mulch can keep bugs away, however, some types work better than others.   

Organic mulches tend to attract bugs more since they can break down and change the soil’s chemistry. Organic mulch is made out of materials like the following: 

  • Bark or wood chips 
  • Grass 
  • Nutshells 
  • Leaves 
  • Pine needles 
  • Straw  

However, there are some organic mulches that repel bugs

For instance, cypress and cedar bark can repel insects through the bark’s natural chemicals. 

This 100% Natural Cedar Chips is a great choice for your garden , found here on Amazon.com

On the other hand, inorganic mulch is a man-made substance that is also effective at repelling insects. Types of inorganic mulch include: 

  • Rubber 
  • Plastic 
  • Rocks  
  • Stone  

Does Cypress Mulch Keep Bugs Away From A House? 

Cypress mulch does not repel insects well because it absorbs and retains water  which can actually attract many bugs and pests.  

Does Cedar Mulch Repel Bugs? 

Cypress is often confused with cedar; however, the two kinds of wood are from different plant families.  While cypress does not keep the bugs away, cedar mulch can keep bugs away from a house because it contains natural oils and chemicals like thujone that deter insects. 

The aroma of cedar, for example, can discourage insects like mosquitoes from nesting in your mulch. Cedar also breaks down slowly, so you won’t need to replace it as often as other organic mulches that decay like leaf or grass clippings.  

The chemicals in cedar repel, or kill, the following bugs: 

  • Cockroaches 
  • Termites 
  • Ants 
  • Carpet beetles 
  • Moths 
  • Mosquitoes 

However, if cedar mulch gets wet, the natural oils in the wood may not be as pungent or as effective.  

Does Pine Mulch Repel Insects? 

Bugs love pine trees, and pine mulch does not repel insects.   In fact, bugs enjoy a pine needle mulch that gives them a perfect place to nest. Pine need mulch can attract aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies and soft scale insects. Cockroaches, spiders and termites are particularly attracted to pine mulch.  

Keep pine needs away from your house to avoid attracting insects to your home. Also keep pine mulch away from any sources of flame including fire pits, barbeques and grills, and smoking areas.  

Which Mulches Attract And Which Mulches Repel Pests?  

Typically, inorganic mulches are best at repelling pests because they do not decompose. When organic mulches decompose, they create fungi and bacteria that insects can feed off of.  

Mulches that attract insects typically are organic and retain moisture like the following: 

  • Pine  
  • Cypress  
  • Straw  

Mulches that repel pests include the following: 

  • Plastic 
  • Cocoa bean shell 
  • Cedar  


Plastic mulch repels pests because it is typically coated in aluminum which also reflects sunlight. The reflection can blind pests and discourage them from making a home inside your mulch. 

Plus, plastic mulch will last longer than organic mulches because it does not decompose. Plastic mulches can still retain moisture, however, so be sure to check out the additional tips at the end for avoiding bugs in your mulch.  

*Cocoa Bean Shell 

Cocoa bean shell mulch is another option to repel pests. This mulch emits a chocolate aroma that deters insects. The cocoa bean shells also keep pests like slugs and termites away from your plants. 

However, chocolate is unsafe for many pets including dogs so don’t use it in areas where your pets roam.  


As mentioned, cedar wood contains a chemical that repels insects. Several studies have shown that the natural oils in cedar act as insect repellent.

According to the University of Washington, “Essential oils derived from this tree acts as an insect repellent, and the wood has also been used to make insect-repelling containers for storing textiles.

Are Insects Attracted To Mulch? 

Certain types of mulch can detract insects from your lawn or garden. However, some insects and pests are attracted to mulch. Additionally, if your mulch is close to your house, some of these pests may find a way inside your home. You can avoid attracting these  

For instance, mulch may attract the following: 

  • Termites
  • Ants 
  • Mice 
  • Cockroaches 
  • Mosquitoes 
  • Spiders 


Termites are attracted to the moist atmosphere of mulch. Plus, mulch gives termites cover to dig into the area. Typically, termites attracted to wood so bark and wood mulch will attract termites.  

However, they also will be attracted to gravel and rubber mulch. Specifically, avoid pine and birch mulch if you want to avoid termites.  


Similar to termites, ants are attracted to wood. Specifically, carpenter ants like to make a home in decaying wood or wood mulch. If you want to avoid ants, do not use wood or organic mulch as ants can build tunnels in wood mulch and are attracted to the decaying organic mulch.  


Mulch can offer a warm spot that mice can use to keep themselves cozy in the winter months. Mice may also chew on bark mulch and offers a place for them to hide. 

Mice may build a nest in mulch, specifically field mice may end up living in your mulch. Mice are particularly attracted to organic mulch, wood mulch, and straw mulch.  


Cockroaches may find your decomposing mulch attractive. Cockroaches will also build nests in your mulch and infest your yard, feeding on the nutrients in your plants and mulch. 

They like the moisture and hiding available in the mulch. Cockroaches are most attracted to bark shavings and pine mulch because they like the decaying wood.  


Mosquitoes will be attracted to wet or moist mulch to lay their eggs. If your area has even a light rain, mulch will become a very appealing new home to mosquitoes. 

Although cedar mulch is known to repel mosquitoes, because of its aroma if the mulch gets wet the cedar oil will produce a less pungent smell and will not be as efficient at repelling mosquitoes. If you have mulch that gets wet or holds moisture, it will attract mosquitoes.  


Spiders are attracted to the moisture in mulch as well as wood dust. And while the aroma of cedar mulch repels many insects, it does not deter spiders from making a home underneath the bark chips. 

Mulch is a perfect shelter for spiders to hide underneath and lay their eggs. Spiders are attracted to wood mulches like pine bark because they can eat the bark and the bacteria and fungi growing there.  

Does Mulch Attract Termite, Mosquitoes And Spiders? 

Mulch can attract termites, mosquitoes and spiders, depending on the type of mulch you use. Termites thrive on wood or bark mulch and will dig into it. Mosquitoes are attracted to any wet or moist mulch. And spiders also like moist atmospheres as well as wood mulch.  

To prevent termites, mosquitoes and spiders, avoid using wood mulch and spread your mulch in an area that will stay as dry as possible. Try to use plastic or cocoa bean shell mulch instead.  

Tips for Mulch to Keep the Bugs Away 

There are a few things you can do when setting up your mulch to make it less attractive for bugs like only using a thin layer, planting flowers and herbs that deter insects, and keeping bird feeders to allow birds to eat off insects in your yard.  

  • Keep it Thin 

First, lay your mulch thin. Setting a thin layer of mulch will discourage insects from making a home there because they have less space to dig into. 

As a rule of thumb, keep your mulch less than three inches deep, but preferably just one or two inches. 

If your mulch is shallow, they will likely go elsewhere. Additionally, you can rake your mulch bed frequently to keep it thin and turnover or break up any bug colonies that may be forming.  

  • Keep it Dry 

Second, most bugs are attracted to the moisture in the mulch. If you can select mulches that do not retain water and try to keep your mulch dry as much as possible, then you can avoid attracting pests. 

This isn’t always possible as some areas are more humid and rainier than others but know that wet mulch is an invitation for mosquitoes, termites and spiders.  

  • Leave Space Between Your House 

When lying mulch, you should leave a space of at least six inches from your home’s foundation to help prevent bugs and pests from making their way from your lawn to your home. 

You should also slope the ground away from the foundation of the building to encourage run off away from your home.  

  • Use Cedar Oil / Insect Repellants 

Even if you don’t use cedar mulch, you can use cedar oil to repel bugs. Cedar oil is often used in insect repellants. You can also spray insect repellent or other solutions on your mulch to help keep the bugs away.  

  • Keep Bird Feeders  

Attracting birds to your lawn can help keep pesky insects at bay. Birds will eat bugs and keep their population down, so keep a few bird feeders around.  

  • Plant Flowers and Herbs 

Certain flowers and herbs can detract insects. Some plants will naturally repel mosquitoes.  Try planting some of the following to deter mosquitoes: 

  • Citronella 
  • Lavender 
  • Basil 
  • Marigolds 
  • Rosemary 
  • Catnip 
  • Peppermint 


In conclusion, the best mulch to keep the bugs away is inorganic mulch like plastic or rubber. However, out of the organic options, cedar mulch and cocoa bean mulch are the best options to repel insects.

Cedar mulch emits a chemical that deters and/or kills bugs and the chocolate smell also deters bugs. 

However, cocoa bean mulch is not ideal if you have animals or small children that will be attracted to the chocolate smell. Regardless of which mulch you use, you can follow a few tips to keep bugs away like planting it away from your house and using only thin layers.