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Hugelkultur and termites?

Roy Haney

Joined: Jun 05, 2012
Posts: 5
I have been asking questions on Hugelkutur due to an excess of wood and poor land. It has seemed perfect except that I live in the south and when wood is burried you get termites and carpenture ants.
I see on Youtube people making these beds near houses and such. This appears to be a disaster in the making. Am I off on this, I would really like to utilize this technique.
Travis Charlie

Joined: Jun 04, 2012
Posts: 21

I live in south Louisiana and I completely agree with you about hugelkulture being a disaster in our area. I talked to an exterminator once who told me that termites can easily travel a quarter mile from their nest to find food. I think putting rotting wood in the ground anywhere on my property would be like opening up buffet for termites with the desert being my house. However, on one of Paul's podcasts he mentioned something sepp holzer said about what to do if you don't have access to lots of rotting wood. He said to plant butt loads of potatoes. When they are ready you harvest what you want and leave the rest. The more you leave the better. The potatoes will add organic matter and improve the soil. I think this is what I'm going to do. It seems like a much better alternative.

On a side note, have you noticed that it is very hard to find permaculture info that is relevant for our area? It seems like a most of the forums and articles I read have to do with the colder climates.

A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth, And the recompense of a mans hands will be rendered to him. Proverbs 12:14 NKJV
Tyler Ludens

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5760
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
We have plenty of carpenter ants and termites in the yard already, because of having trees. I've not noticed more termites and carpenter ants since I put in buried wood beds. I would avoid putting them right near the house, putting them a few feet away from the foundation and keeping the foundation clear of debris and plants, personally, if I were worried about termites. Folks have talked about the termite issue in a bunch of other hugelkultur threads here.

Idle dreamer

Nick Garbarino

Joined: Apr 24, 2012
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
I remember hearing about a massive infestation of hyperactive south american termites in Louisiana related to Katrina and Rita. Apparently all the wood debris from the destroyed buildings created a situation that allowed the termites to explode? I also remember hearing that this species of termites was exported to other states because the landfills in Louisiana were overwhelmed and they had to take a lot of it out of state to dispose of it.

In my personal experience, having lived and gardened in Georgia, Alabama, Texas, and Florida, termites were always present in the woods, yet we never had any significant problems in our structures. Why would they go for dry, painted or treated lumber when they have so much wet, yummy dead timber to feast on in the woods? It seems to me, termites are everywhere so a few more buried logs won't make a significant difference, as long as they are not too close to stuctures.

Certifiable food forest gardener, free gardening advice offered and accepted. Permaculture is the intersection of environmentalsim and agriculture.
Kevin Power

Joined: May 01, 2012
Posts: 16
Location: Western Washington
Carpenter Ants love wet wood. They will take wet/moist wood over dry. Drier your structural members are, the more repellant they generally will be. I have done plenty of work repairing what carpenter ants have destroyed, however, I have never honestly seen termites where I live. Since it has been ages since I lived in the southern US, I do not fully remember how humidity plays with wood. With that said, in regards to invitations, wet wood is almost always an invite for unwanted guests.

Kevin P, A Pacific Northwest Native
Tim Luden

Joined: Sep 04, 2012
Posts: 26
Location: Missouri
My first post here! Hugel is how I found this forum and many sleepless nights researching a host of other things that kept leading me to permies. As an entomologist I can tell you termites are natures garbage men. If it weren't for them, theories claim the land surface of the earth would acquire an addition 2' of cellulose debris annually. I would consider reticulitermes every bit as important as worms. When they feed on wood they replace it with their version of worm castings. There are several sub-species and the further southern latitude (US) you are combined with a more humid climate will mean more termite pressure. As mentioned above in LA and several other SE states there is a sub-species known as formosan. They have nothing to do with recent hurricanes and have been here for at least a century or 2. Hitch-hikers in wood from the Amazon imported in rail-road ties used as a foundation to build up New Orleans so it wasn't so far below sea level. Now they're in 8-12 states. An established colony can eat a pound of wood a day. These wood probably not be desirable for hugel. The other sub-species are probably why 1 hugel works so well and 2 why they have to be rebuilt after 15 to 20 years.
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