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The eastern red cedar tree is the most widely distributed conifer tree in the eastern United States, as these trees are abundant along highways, vacant lots, along fencerows, along backroads, pastures and in just about any location that is not regularly mowed. The eastern red cedar tree is officially known as Juniperus virginiana, and as this scientific name suggests, the tree is actually a Juniper, not a cedar tree. Wood from these trees was once widely used to construct homes and buildings. In fact, early colonial settlers along the east coast used wood from this tree to build homes, coffins, poles, fences and furniture, as the wood proved valuable for repelling insect pests, particularly clothes moths. As it turns out, eastern red cedar wood has also been found to repel eastern subterranean termites, the only termite species known to dwell within Massachusetts.

Eastern red cedar wood is still used to construct outdoor wooden structures today due to this wood’s natural resistance to eastern subterranean termite attacks. These structures include picnic tables, fences, utility poles, and of course, homes and buildings. Not long ago, a study found that eastern red cedar wood makes for an ideal component in particle board used for home construction. According to this study, not only does wood from the eastern red cedar tree species repel eastern subterranean termites, but most termites of this species that do consume this type of wood end up dying within a short time from the toxic compounds produced by this tree species. Eastern red cedar heartwood contains cedar oils that are composed of several toxic compounds that ended up killing 76 percent of the laboratory termites that fed on the wood, as opposed to the mere 16 percent of termites that were killed after feeding on pinewood that contained less toxic compounds.

For Massachusetts homeowners looking for a type of mulch that will not attract eastern subterranean termites, eastern red cedar wood chips are the best choice. The US Department of Agriculture categorizes mulch from eastern red cedar wood as being in between “resistant” and “very resistant” to termite attack. This makes eastern red cedar wood a better natural termite repellent than the more widely used wood from western red cedar trees.

Are you nervous about placing wood mulch in your yard do to the risk of attracting termites?