FAQ: What about termites?

So you want to build a hugel, but you’re worried about termites near your house. Are termites attracted to hugels or not?

ANSWER:

There’s no simple answer to this question.

  • I have 85m2 of hugels in my yard, and termites are present in the areas of native vegetation in the yard. In three and a half years, I have not found any termites active in my hugels or woodchip paths.
  • Many species of sub-terranian termites in Australia are not the ones that invade and eat houses. That may be different where you live, so do your research and speak to a pest controller.
  • The environment in a hugel may not be amenable to termites. It’s moist and there is also a lot of green stuff in there; lots of stuff rotting, lots of bugs and worms and bacteria competing for nutrients.  This is not a dead zone – it is very much alive and I suspect that it is too competitive an environment for termites.
  • Termites are a natural part of the habitat, and work together with other insects to break down organic matter and build soils. If you hugel garden is very close to your house, you might rethink the use of large amounts of rotting wood.
  • Some people suggest using smaller pieces of wood, or woodchip because termites nest in larger, dry seasoned pieces with grain structure still in place. Thinner branches (rather than big logs) as they are not be suitable for house damaging termites to feed on.

Bonus Myth:

If you have ants, you won’t have termites.

Sorry, but this is not true.  Although ants and termites are enemies by nature, unless there are no other food sources, they will coexist.

In a hugel, there’s plenty of food for ants, so they will not destroy a termite colony for you.

4 Comments

    • Tyswan

      Hello Betty, thank you for your question.

      Termites typically feed on dead woody matter (fibrous structural tissue), mostly trees and dead logs. Vegetables are primarily living plant matter, and are less attractive to termites. There are a few species that feed on living plants, but these seem to be living trees rather than vegetables. I am no termite expert, and although I have never heard of termites eating vegetables, there are a lot of termite species, and there may be some that do. As always, it would be best to do research for your area to confirm that this won’t be an issue for you.

      The real danger in a hugel is that the termites might be attracted to the buried wood, wood used in raised beds or other garden structures, or to the woody parts of fruit trees planted in the hugel beds.

      Whilst we have never had issues with termites in our hugels over the last 6 years, if you’re worried about termites and live in a densely populated urban area, probably avoid using hugels to be on the safe side.

      Happy gardening!

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