I,m in Australia & live in the bush & we have lots of termites. I want to try some hugelkultur beds near my house, but am worried they will attract termites- the little buggers even get into hay bales . Has anyone had problems with termites?
I've been thinking about this on and off for awhile now and although I don't have a definitive answer, I do have some points to consider...
IF termites love Hugelbeds, then they are a great diversionary "crop" to keep them out of your building structures, hay etc.
IF termites love Hugelbeds, then I imagine that they would borrow in there and eat the wood. There are quite a few tons of wood in there so it would take them some time to consume it. And what do they turn wood into? Compost.
I remember the termite mounds in Africa. The termites harvest grasses and these huge mounds of compost are built up over decades. These trap moisture and nutrients and before you know it, you have trees growing on the mounds. The termites don't kill these trees and there seems to be some sort of symbiosis going on.
I strongly suspect that in a termite environment, a hugel bed may actually model a natural tree growing system, but in an accelerated way.
Joined: May 08, 2013
Location: Augusta, GA
Welcome to Permies, Craig!
I've noticed lots of ants in my hugelbeds, but not termites (not yet, at least). Termites are just doing their job of making the nutrients in the wood available to plant roots via all that termite poop. The problem comes in letting them know that while they are welcome in the hugelbed, they are not welcome in the house. I imagine you do the same things there as we do here to get that point across, making sure the house has no contact between bare earth and untreated wood. Wherever termites invade, it is possible because they manage to keep themselves from drying out. If the ground around the house dries out quickly after it rains and offers them no moist spots, then they can't get established in the wood of the house.
If your house is poorly protected, if it has the moisture that the termites need, then I don't think it matters if the house is 10 feet or 10 miles from the hugelbed, they will find a way to attack it.
Joined: Nov 05, 2012
Location: Thetford, Vermont
Well let me start your answer with a question...."what species of termite is getting into houses (both wood and straw bail)?"
I kind'a need to know that to go into details of possible deterrents, as there are hundreds of species just in your area alone. For the most part just learn to live with them as pest control companies are a "con game" all onto themselves (was in the industry at one time and just could not take the deception.)
As for attracting them, you don't have to worry, they are there already, you just don't see them. So as John E. already noted, 10 m or 10 k, it doesn't really matter. I would also point out, as others have, that just about any composting organisms that moves into the core of your hugelkultur is a good thing. That is the beauty of this system, it is as close to "natural" whole system gardening as you can get.
Now all that said, we are here and don't know if you have some terrible aggressive tropical upper canopy species that could be an issue or what? I need to know the species you are dealing with to possibly give guidance or warning for some specific trait that your indigenous species may have that would not be conducive to having them around, but even where those species are, I don't believe that would effect me putting in a garden, just how I built my house, and managed my "pest control" issues.
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Joined: Sep 23, 2013
Thanks for the replies
Sorry I don't know the species, I think there is over 200 species or more - some bad - some not so bad. I think the best idea would be to build the beds at least 10 metres from the house - I like the idea that the beds could divert the termites away from the house. I've got a wattle that fell over - might chop that up & give it a go.
I don't know if all species of termites will invade a house the same way... My house (Tennessee, United States... I guess we are still United?) had termites at one time, it was treated but I'm not sure it terminated the problem first go round. When the ambient temperature reaches a certain point (here, around the 70's in April I think) they swarm and fly to new locations. I experienced this. I felt something hit the back of my neck, I turned towards my house and thousands were pouring from the side of my brick home. Earlier the very same day, we experienced the exact same thing in the break room at work. When they come from the ground (my house is framed on a cement block foundation) they make and travel thru tunnels made of dirt that you can see going up the blocks and to the wood. That being said, I don't think building your beds will attract them into your house. As someone else pointed out, they are already in the ground. If they wanted to be in your house they already would be or possibly are and you have no idea. However, I do think the further from the house you can get the better.