Kansas City Termites
And Termite Inspections

Termites and Carpenter Ants and Carpenter Bees (oh my)

In Kansas City, houses and termites go together just like any other bad relationship – you can expect some damage and plenty of disappointment.

So along with the home inspection, radon test, and sewer scope, the termite inspection (technically the Wood-Destroying Insect or WDI) rounds out the 4 most important inspections every homebuyer should always consider.

Kansas City has a few different types of havoc-wreaking wood-destroying insects that eat, burrow, and live in and around our homes.

The most common is the subterranean termite but there is also the carpenter ant and the carpenter bee. 

These are the Big 3.  In fact, it’s not really a matter of IF one of them pays you a visit, but WHEN.

Subterranean Termites

These saw-toothed soft-bodied buggers nest underground and stay active year-round by traveling through shelter tubes (aka mud tubes).  They cannot survive for long outside a damp moist environment, eat wood 24/7 365 days a year, and their favorite meal is soft, damp wood.

What They Look Like

There are 3 different types and they all live together.  If you see any of them, you have an infestation.

Workers: About 1/4″ and cream-colored

Soldiers: Large pincers and darker color

Reproductives (swarmers): 1/4″ to 1/2″ body with 2 sets of long wings

How to Keep Them Away

  1. Don’t store wood on the ground

  2. Create a 1″- 2″ gap between any siding and the soil

  1. Keep crawlspace vents open to minimize moisture and humidity

  1. Divert water away from your foundation.

  1. Seal foundation cracks and gaps

  1. Keep vines, bushes, and flowers trimmed away from siding

Inspecting For Termites

Termites are found top-to-bottom inside and outside a home.  

Carry a flashlight and long screwdriver to tap or poke soft wood. 

This is what you’re looking for:

  1. Shelter tubes (long mud trails filled with termites) coming up from the ground along the exterior of the home

  1. Discarded wings outside your home

  1. Mud tubes or damaged wood along the floor and walls of your garage

  2. Mud tubes and damaged wood at the sill plate, rim joist, and floor joists around your crawlspace or basement

  1. Mud tubes causing paint to bubble and peel

Termite mud tube
Termite shelter tube

Damage And Risks

Subterranean termites are considered the most damaging of all termite species and cause a big chunk of the nearly $5B in property damage insects cause each year. 

A typical colony can have between 60,000 and 2,000,000 termites and a small colony can eat 2 to 3 feet of 2×4 per year. 

Their damage is NOT normally covered by homeowner’s insurance.

What to Do If You Have Them

Buy an anteater (just kidding).

Call a professional pest control company.  There’s nothing you can do to stop them since their nest is underground.

The most comprehensive treatment is a combination of both chemicals (to stop them) and bait traps (to keep them away). 

The typical cost is $500-$2000 depending on the size of the colony and the type of treatment you choose.

Carpenter Ants

Commonly found in mature, wooded areas. 

Unlike termites, carpenter ants burrow through wood and leave frass (sawdust) piles behind. 

But just like termites, they prefer munching on dead, moist wood along with any meat, grease, and sweets you leave lying around the house.

What They Look Like

Big black ants with pincers.  Their bodies usually grow from 1/4″ to 5/8″ in length.

Workers: About 1/4″ and cream-colored

Soldiers: Large pincers and darker color

Reproductives (swarmers): 1/4″ to 1/2″ body with 2 sets of long wings

Inspecting For Carpenter Ants

They will usually build nests in dead tree stumps, old firewood, and rotten fence posts.

They get inside homes by crawling through bushes, holes, and foundation cracks; and along power lines and tree limbs.

Inside, you’ll find piles of frass (looks like sawdust mixed with insect parts) sitting in front of small holes in walls, doors, and windows as they ruin the hidden wooden parts of your home.

Damage And Risks

A typical carpenter ant colony has between 10k-20k workers who use their strong biters to create galleries inside damp wood.  It’s these galleries that weaken the wood and cause warping inside walls.

Compared to termites, these amateurs only cause a measly few hundred million dollars a year in property damage.

What to Do If You Have Them

  1. Eliminate wood root, moisture, and standing water in and around your home

  1. Trim tree branches and bushes away from your roof and siding

  1. Seal cracks and openings

  1. Keep your home clean and put your food away

If you think you have an infestation, play it safe and call a professional pest control company. Treatment for carpenter ants is different from termites so a professional can tell you what you’re up against and help you create a plan to remove them.

Carpenter Bees

This least common culprit is also the least destructive but no less annoying because they look like bumblebees.

What They Look Like

Hairy top and smooth bottom.  That’s the easiest way to tell the difference between them and a bumblebee.

Females have a stinger, but males don’t.

Inspecting For Carpenter Bees

You’ll see them buzzing around your home.  These are not social insects so there won’t be a hive, just a single solitary bee trying to get by.

They also create smooth, round holes the size of a dime in siding, trim, wood posts, fences, and tree branches.

To add insult to injury, Carpenter bee larvae are a food source for woodpeckers.

woodpecker feeding on carpenter bee larvae
Woodpecker feeding on carpenter bee larvae

Damage And Risks

They make holes in wood (the average depth is 6” long but some can as long as 10 feet), which is never good.  If ignored or undiscovered this can cause structural damage to the wood over time.

Females have stingers but only sting when threatened.  Males are territorial and will try to buzz you away, but without stingers they can’t hurt you.

What To Do If You Have Them

A few things:

  1. There is insecticide for this critter so there’s no need to call a pest control company in a panic.  Just treat the hole, don’t seal it, and let the formula do its thing (better yet, follow the directions on the label).  After awhile you can seal the hole.

  2. If you continue seeing them or they keep coming back, call a pro.  They’ll help you get rid of them.

  3. Paint or stain exposed wood.  Carpenter bees have been known to avoid treated or painted wood.

  4. Last, seal open cracks with silicone-based caulking so they don’t have a place to hide.
Carpenter bee diy treatment kit
Carpenter bee diy treatment kit

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