Mulch DOES attract termites.
According to several studies, it is actually the moist conditions that mulch creates that attract termites rather than the concept that the mulch is being used as a food source. One study conducted by the Structural IPM Program at the University of Maryland discovered that over time, termite activity was actually higher beneath gravel mulch than it was wood-based mulch reinforcing that the termites favor the conditions rather than the meal.
In a separate study, termites offered meals of wood-mulch in relation to those that were fed the laboratory control diet of white birch did not survive as long suggesting that inherent foraging habits would lead the termites to wood found in nature rather than the wood-mulch used in landscaping applications.
How to Discourage Termites
The fact remains that any sort of mulch, wood-based or gravel, will encourage termites. You can discourage termite mulch attraction by pulling the mulch several inches away from foundations and any structure where wood meets soil such as a deck.
“Does landscape mulch lead to termites in your home? | Horticulture and Home Pest News .” Home | Integrated Pest Management at Iowa State University. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. .
“ENY-832/IN651: The Facts About Termites and Mulch .” EDIS – Electronic Data Information Source – UF/IFAS Extension. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.
Long et al. 2001. The effect of organic and inorganic landscape mulches on subterranean termite foraging activity. Entomol. 30(5): 832-836.