How to Prevent Termites in Your Yard

close up of termite mound

If you want to keep termites out of your yard, you have to get rid of the things that attract them. What attracts termites? Excess moisture, wood, and especially a combination of the two. The moisture gives them a habitat to live in, and the wood gives them a food source.

All the termite-prevention methods we’ll go over have the same overarching goal: Eliminating as many damp spots and wood structures in the yard as possible. We’ll also give you a few tips for keeping termites out of your home, just in case you end up with an infestation in your yard. 

6 ways to prevent termites in your yard

closeup of termites on leaf
Aleksey Gnilenkov | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The best method of termite control is never to get them in the first place. These 6 tips will make your yard less attractive to termites so they’re less likely to infest. 

1. Beware of overwatering

Remember, termites love moisture. And one termite species, the subterranean termite, lives in soil, so moist soil is basically an open invitation. Think about that when you water your lawn and garden.

Between each watering, let the soil dry out. That means you should water the lawn with about one inch of water one time per week, although the right amount depends on your grass and soil type

2. Remove dead or decaying wood

Don’t put off removing tree stumps or cleaning up fallen branches in your yard. That decaying wood is a gold mine for termites. Always remove debris such as logs, tree stumps, branches, and rotting dead trees as soon as possible, before termites have a chance to find them. 

You may have to hire a professional tree removal service in some cases, especially for grinding stumps. But that one-time service will cost a lot less time and money than removing a termite infestation and repairing the damage if they get into your home. 

3. Store wood piles properly

In the best-case scenario, you should store wood piles inside a garage or shed with a concrete foundation, so the wood doesn’t make contact with the soil, making it easier for termites to infest. If you have to store wood piles outside, keep them on a raised platform made of metal. 

At the absolute least, store your woodpile away from the house. If the wood touches your wall, termites can use it as a bridge to get inside. 

4. Clean gutters regularly 

The leaves, twigs, and pine straw that collect in your gutters all contain cellulose, the substance in plant cells that termites feed on. Add rainwater to that collection, and you’ve got a perfect habitat for termites — one that’s attached to your house. 

Remove debris from your gutters at least once a month to keep termites from setting up shop inside of them and to prevent clogging. When gutters clog, rainwater leaks into the wood along your roofline and the soil right next to your home, inviting termites in those places, too. 

5. Don’t mulch with plant-based materials 

Some of the most common mulches homeowners spread in their landscapes are wood chips, shredded bark, and pine straw. What do all those materials have in common? They’re plant-based, which means they contain cellulose and make a great food source for termites. 

Instead of plant-based materials like these, use inorganic mulch such as gravel, rocks, or rubber nuggets to protect your garden from termite infestation. 

6. Avoid wooden landscape features

Thinking of building a new deck, patio, or porch? Choose a construction material other than wood if you don’t want your landscape feature to become a target for termites. Build your features out of concrete, composite, vinyl, or metal instead. 

Landscape features like these come in contact with both the soil and your home. Termites would love to live in the undisturbed, enclosed soil beneath your wooden deck and use the deck itself as a food source. From there, it’s only a short walk for those termites to get into your home. 

4 ways to keep termites out of your home

cluster of termites crawling on tree trunk
Heather R | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

You may not be able to keep every termite out of your yard even with prevention methods like the ones we described above, and that’s OK. Termites are actually pretty common in lawns and gardens. 

Just in case you do get termites in your yard, here are some practices that will prevent them from spreading into your home. 

1. Regular termite inspections

The best way to give yourself peace of mind about termites is to have a professional termite control technician inspect your home regularly, even when you don’t suspect an infestation. 

In some cases, termites live in the walls for several years before the homeowner ever sees signs of termite activity. Professionals recommend getting a termite inspection at least once a year to catch any termite problems before they infest large areas. 

2. Don’t let trees and bushes touch the house

Remember, termites love wood, and some species build termite colonies in live trees and bushes. If those trees and bushes touch your home, termites can use the branches as a bridge into the walls. 

To prevent that, plant all trees and bushes at least 3 feet away from your home. Trim the branches regularly so they don’t grow long enough to touch the house. 

3. Install termite-resistant steel mesh

There are stainless steel mesh screens designed to keep termites out of possible entry points into your home. The holes in the mesh are small enough that termites can’t get through them, but water or air can still flow out.

Install these mesh screens in front of vents, pipes, and other gaps in your home’s exterior to give termites fewer opportunities to get inside.

4. Seal cracks in your foundation 

Termites can get inside your home through the foundation, too. Seal any cracks or holes in the foundation with concrete or epoxy sealer. Whatever type of sealant you buy, follow the instructions on the package for an airtight, waterproof seal. 

Signs of termites in your yard

How can you tell if your termite-prevention methods have failed? Here are some common signs of a termite colony in your yard.

Seeing live termites

Termites usually stay hidden underground or inside wooden structures, but there are times you might see them. During mating season, you can see swarmers flying in large numbers. You also might find subterranean termites in the soil while digging. 

What do termites look like? Depending on the type of termite, they might have white, black, or brown bodies. Most are about ¼ inch to ½ inch long. At first glance, you might mistake them for flying ants

Damage to wood structures

Small holes in trees, woodpiles, or any other wood structures might be a sign of termites. Termites can eat through a lot of wood quickly, so you might see more obvious and severe damage, too. 

If you suspect a wood structure might have termites living inside it, you can conduct a few simple tests:

  • Knock on the wood. Do you hear a hollow sound? That may indicate interior termite damage. 
  • Try to break through the wood with a screwdriver. If the wood gives way easier than it should, termites may have eaten its insides. 

Mud tubes

Mud tubes are tunnels that subterranean termites build using dirt, saliva, and tiny pieces of wood. They need the tubes to go from the soil to structures they want to infest. If you see mud tunnels on a tree, woodpile, or your home’s foundation, that means you have termites.

Just because you don’t see mud tubes doesn’t mean you don’t have termites. Dampwood and drywood termites are other common pest types of termites, and they don’t use mud tubes.


Termites dispose of their feces through kick-out holes. Look for holes about 1 millimeter in diameter with piles of feces nearby. Termite feces are very tiny, so they look like small piles of coarse dirt to the human eye. 

Discarded wings

After mating season, which usually takes place in the hotter months of spring and summer, swarming termites shed their wings. If you find large numbers of insect wings around your property, they could have come from termites, and you might have an infestation. 

What to do if you have termites in your yard

closeup of termite in wet grass
Derek Keats | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

If you have termites in your yard, you might be able to exterminate them yourself without help from a professional. DIY outdoor termite treatments include chemical insecticides, bait stations, and eco-friendly methods. Learn more in our guide to getting rid of termites in your yard.  

Do you suspect termites in your home? Call a professional pest control company immediately. The sooner you handle your termite problem, the less time they have to do damage. Termite damage can cost thousands of dollars to repair if an infestation is left untreated. 

For help with your lawn and garden, consider calling a local professional near you.

Main Photo Credit: Roy Buri | Pixabay

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin is a writer and editor with a passion for sustainable, earth-friendly gardening and lawn care practices. When she isn't sharing her knowledge about lawn care and landscaping, you can find her curled up with a good book and a cat in her lap.