Does Cocoa Bean Mulch Attract Termites?

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Mulching your garden provides a physical barrier to wind and excessive evaporation -- your soil remains moist longer for maximum root uptake. Among the organic materials available is cocoa bean mulch. With the same brownish hue of wood mulch, cocoa bean mulch provides a contrasting color with your surrounding green foliage. But this garden enhancement does not attract termites like typical bark or wood mulches.

Initial Attraction

  • When you apply cocoa bean mulch to your garden, termites may be initially driven to the area in hopes of a new food source. Its resemblance to wood is an easy mistake for these insects. Once they feast on the mulch, however, they cannot sustain any nutrition from the cocoa beans. They may initially use the material as a plastering agent for their cavernous homes, or galleries, but the lack of nutrition commonly drives them into other areas with better food potential.

Cocoa Mulch Anatomy

  • Cocoa bean mulch consists of the outer shell casings discarded during coffee bean manufacturing. Because the shells do not have any weeds or spores attached to them, they make quality mulch for strong garden growth. Unlike wood chips, these shells do not have a vascular system -- wood mulch still retains its original vascular system with ample cellulose material. It is the cellulose that termites ingest and gain energy from, but cocoa shells have none of this structure as a proper food source.

Benefits

  • Aside from deterring termite populations, cocoa bean mulch also prevents snails and slugs from damaging your sensitive crops. You gain an intoxicating scent for your garden as the cocoa shells decay over time -- chocolate permeates the air. Unlike other mulches that tend to bleach into a light color under the sun, cocoa beans slowly darken from brown to black as they absorb and expel moisture over time. Instead of applying the mulch thickly to a 3-inch depth, you need to use cocoa shells sparingly at a 1-inch depth. This spreading strategy encourages air and water movement between the atmosphere and soil for a healthy garden ecosystem.

Drawbacks

  • It is critical to keep any curious dogs, or other pets, away from the cocoa bean mulch. Because these are the beans that originate from chocolate production, the shells hold a compound called theobromine that is poisonous to animals. Consuming too much cocoa bean mulch results in digestive problems and possible death. If you use cocoa beans year-round in your garden, you should verify that your soil's pH does not become too acidic. As the shells decay, they add a slight acidity to the soil that may harm particularly sensitive plants.

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