Keeper of the Plans

Termites were eating away at a Wichita museum. Now it’s hosting a wake, with a hearse.

The Sentricon Coroner’s Caddy is a 17-foot hearse with a 7-foot dead termite affixed to the roof.
The Sentricon Coroner’s Caddy is a 17-foot hearse with a 7-foot dead termite affixed to the roof. Courtesy

Something is eating away at Wichita’s cultural institutions, and it’s not the threat of budget cuts.

Apparently it’s termites.

To prove it, look no further than Old Town’s Museum of World Treasures, which, in 2014, was under siege by termite colonies, said Mike Patton, president and CEO of Patton Termite and Pest.

Patton said his company eradicated a termite infestation in the city-owned building, which houses artifacts like shrunken heads and documents written by the Founding Fathers.

“The concern was that it might get into some of the artifacts that were in storage,” he said. “We just didn’t want them getting into other parts of the museum.”

To celebrate the extinction of the termites, the company is sponsoring a “wake” at the museum on Monday — which will be highlighted by a custom-made hearse with a seven-foot-long termite sculpture affixed to the roof.

The “wake” is scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the museum, 835 E. 1st Street. It will feature free food, product demonstrations and lively discussion about termites.

The head-turning hearse — otherwise known as the Coroner’s Caddy — is making a pit stop in Wichita as part of its national “Deader Than Dead” tour promoting Sentricon termite control systems, which Patton sells.

And for those who aren’t all that interested in termites, admission to the Museum of World Treasures, normally $9.95, will be free during the event.

Patton said his company continues to provide termite control for the museum five years later.

“Termites are God’s way of turning decaying wood into nutritious soil — we just don’t want them turning valuable things into dirt,” he said. “We don’t want them eating up treasures from antiquity, do we?”

Last week was “Termite Awareness Week,” so says the National Pest Management Association — and as the weather continues to warm, termite activity is expected to increase.

The state of Kansas is generally considered to be “heavily infested” with termites, Patton said, meaning that there are an average of seven to eight termite colonies per acre here.

Matt Riedl covers arts and entertainment news for the Wichita Eagle and has done so since 2015. He maintains the Keeper of the Plans blog on Facebook, dedicated to keeping Wichitans abreast of all things fun.