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Termites + KC’s Most Popular Wood-Destroying Insects [2024]

BY Steve Rodriguez
Steve Rodriguez
BY Steve Rodriguez
Steve Rodriguez

Termites and Carpenter Ants and Carpenter Bees (oh my)

These are known as Wood destroying insects.  Or WDI. 

And in Kansas City, houses and termites go together like any other bad relationship you can always expect at least a little damage and disappointment to come out of it.

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.

Let’s talk about them…

Subterranean Termites

These saw-toothed soft-bodied busy-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 and you need to call a professional to stop them from chewing on your stuff.

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

worker termites
worker termites
soldier termites
soldier termites
swarmer termites
swarmer termites

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants prefer moist, decaying wood and love hollow trees, stumps, and logs. They’ll also invade homes and buildings, especially where there is damp wood.

Unlike termites, carpenter ants don’t eat wood; they burrow through it to build their nests. Over time, this excavating behavior will cause the same degree of damage as termites.

Signs of Carpenter Ant Activity

Sawdust in places it doesn’t belong. Except it won’t be clean. It will be littered with excrement, body parts, and dirt. You’ll also hear rustling sounds inside walls and see big black ants crawling around the area.

What They Look Like

Large ants. Usually black, but some types are reddish or yellowish color. And you can expect to see two different sizes: the major worker is very large, and the minor worker looks just like the major worker but much smaller. They’ll range from 1/4 to 1/2 inch long.

Major worker: About 1/2″ and cream-colored

Minor worker: Identical to major worker but about 1/4″ long

carpenter ant minor worker and major worker side by side
minor and major workers
minor workers to scale
minor workers to scale
carpenter ant frass
carpenter ant frass

Carpenter Bees

This least common culprit is also the least destructive but no less annoying because they look like bumblebees (except these buzzing bandits drill holes in your wood).

What They Look Like

Hairy top and smooth bottom (don’t laugh, it’s true).  That’s the easiest way to tell the difference between them and a bumblebee.

Females have a stinger, but males don’t.

Carpenter bee compared to bumble bee
Carpenter bee compared to bumble bee
carpenter bee with hole
carpenter bee with hole
carpenter bee inside hole
carpenter bee inside hole
Photo of author

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Rodriguez is a Certified Master Inspector® and the owner of Bulldog Professional Inspection Services. He will perform your home inspection and has personally uncovered tens-of-thousands of defects in 14,000+ Kansas City properties since 2003.

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