Prevention – Assessing Collection Vulnerabilty

Determining which collections are most likely to be attacked by pests will help make inspections more efficient, help determine which solutions are most appropriate, and inform decisions on housekeeping and other preventive measures.

Several factors can affect the vulnerability of an item to pests, most significantly is what the item is made from but other influential factors include, current condition and storage location. For example, residue from use, surface dirt, stains (particularly food or sweat) and high moisture content can encourage infestation. Collections may also be vulnerable because of their location history.  For example, new acquisitions and returned loans may carry pests into a collection. Collections that were previously infested are likely to be vulnerable to recurring or new infestations. Previous infestations should be documented and these collections should be monitored.

Pests generally prefer warm dark, undisturbed areas to live and reproduce. These include the undersides of carpets, within seams and linings of textiles, backs of paintings, and closed drawers.   Within buildings these areas can include basements, behind walls, below floorboards, within dropped ceilings and ductwork. Collections stored near or in these areas are particularly vulnerable, as are collections stored next to pest attractants such as packing materials (cardboard), garbage, food preparation and storage areas. Touring exhibitions and loan objects are also at risk of pest issues.  Distributions of pests vary geographical and different climate will affect the occurrence of a species.

Read how the Yale Peabody Museum determined the vulnerability of their collection in Integrated pest management challenges in a retrofitted building for Yale Peabody Museum collections, by Lynn A. Jones and Raymond J. Pupedis, Collection Forum Spring 2011, Vol. 25:1-2, Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.

It is equally important to understand the materials that make up items in your collection, as some materials are at a significantly higher risk than others as pest food sources. For instance, Emily Schuetz Stryker’s Investigation into Preferential Insect Damage of an 18th Century Quilt, details a case study at the  Winterthur Museum’s collection where researchers noted preferential insect damage based on color on wool whole cloth quilts.

Another example is Suzanne Ryder et al.Tineola bisselliella at the Natural History Museum, London, where certain taxidermy displays were consistently infested with clothes moths.

Below is a quick guide to help protect your collection against pest damage. However, it should be remembered that not all items are suitable for treatment so if you are unsure about the most appropriate treatment or solution for your object you should contact a conservator for advice. Never treat a parcel on behalf of someone else without knowing for sure what it contains.  Visual inspection should a minimum requirement to all incoming material as a preventive measure.

Vulnerable materials are found in many types of collections. These materials include:

Collection or Material Type
Associated Pests
Solutions/Treatments
Natural History Specimens
Insects Anthrenus sarnicus (Guernsey carpet beetle)

Anthrenus verbasci (varied carpet beetle)

Dermestes lardarius (larder beetle)

Lasiderma serricorne (cigarette beetle)

Stegobium paniceum (drugstore beetle)

Thylodrias contractus (odd beetle)

Tribolium confusum (confused flour beetle)

Trogoderma spp. (warehouse beetle)

Tineola bisselliella (webbing clothes moth)

Liposcelidae spp. (booklice)

Low Temperature Treatment

Heat treatment

Controlled Atmosphere (Anoxia/C02/Nitrogen/Argon)

Desiccated biological specimens Dermestes ater (black larder beetle)

Dermestes lardarius (larder beetle)

Dermestes maculatus  (hide beetle)

Necrobia rufipes (red legged ham beetle)

Stegobium paniceum (drugstore beetle)

Thylodrias contractus (odd beetle)

Trogoderma variabile (warehouse beetle)

Low Temperature Treatment

Heat treatment

Controlled Atmosphere (Anoxia/C02/Nitrogen/Argon)

Taxidermy and study skins Dermestes ater (black larder beetle)

Dermestes lardarius (larder beetle)

Dermestes maculatus  (hide beetle)

Trogoderma variabile (warehouse beetle)

Tineola bisselliella (webbing clothes moth)

Mus domesticus (mouse)

Low Temperature Treatment

Heat treatment

Controlled Atmosphere (Anoxia/C02/Nitrogen/Argon)

 
Cellulosic Materials
Wood Anobium punctatum (furniture beetle or woodworm)

Dermestes ater (black larder beetle)

Lyctidae spp. (true powderpost beetle)

Xestobium rufovillosum (deathwatch beetle)

Low Temperature Treatment

Heat treatment

Controlled Atmosphere (Anoxia/C02/Nitrogen/Argon)

Visual inspection

Cleaning

 

Plant materials (dried botanical specimens, basketry, bark cloth, cordage) Lasiderma serricorne (cigarette beetle)

Lyctidae spp. (true powderpost beetle)

Ptinus tectus (spider beetle)

Stegobium paniceum (drugstore beetle)

Tribolium confusum (confused flour beetle)

Low Temperature Treatment

Heat treatment

Controlled Atmosphere (Anoxia/C02/Nitrogen/Argon)

Visual inspection

Paper, books, cardboard Lasiderma serricorne (cigarette beetle)

Ptinus tectus (spider beetle)

Lepisma saccharina (silverfish)

Perilaneta americana (American cockroach)

Low Temperature Treatment

Heat treatment

Controlled Atmosphere (Anoxia/C02/Nitrogen/Argon)

Visual inspection

Plant based textiles (linen, hemp, cotton, rope etc.) Generally not vulnerable unless starched (then silverfish, firebrats, cockroach) or stained with protein residue then same as wool and leather pests. Low Temperature Treatment

Heat treatment

Controlled Atmosphere (Anoxia/C02/Nitrogen/Argon)

Proteinaceous Materials
Wool,
Feathers
Horn
Quill
Hair
Fur
Baleen
Anthrenus sarnicus (Guernsey carpet beetle)

Anthrenus verbasci (varied carpet beetle)

Dermestes lardarius (larder beetle)

Ptinus tectus (spider beetle)

Thylodrias contractus (odd beetle)

Tineola bisselliella (webbing or common clothes moth)

Tinea pellionella (casemaking clothes moth)

Perilaneta americana (American cockroach)

Low Temperature Treatment

Heat treatment

Controlled Atmosphere (Anoxia/C02/Nitrogen/Argon)

Leather / hide (and hide glue) / skin, sinew cordage Anthrenus sarnicus (Guernsey carpet beetle)

Anthrenus verbasci (varied carpet beetle)

Dermestes lardarius (larder beetle)

Dermestes maculatus  (hide beetle)

Ptinus tectus (spider beetle)

Stegobium paniceum (drugstore beetle)

Trogoderma variabile (warehouse beetle)

Low Temperature Treatment

Controlled Atmosphere (Anoxia/C02/Nitrogen/Argon)

Wool and silk based textiles Dermestes lardarius (larder beetle)

Dermestes lardarius (larder beetle)

Dermestes maculatus  (hide beetle)

Anthrenus verbasci (varied carpet beetle)

Lasiderma serricorne (cigarette beetle)

Thylodrias contractus (odd beetle)

Tineola bisselliella (webbing or common clothes moth

Tinea pellionella (case-making clothes moth)

Low Temperature Treatment

Heat treatment

Controlled Atmosphere (Anoxia/C02/Nitrogen/Argon)

   

Historic Building Components
Wooden structures Anobium punctatum (furniture beetle or woodworm)

Dermestes lardarius (larder beetle)

Lyctidae spp. (true powderpost beetle)

Xestobium rufovillosum (deathwatch beetle)

Retculitermes flavipes (subterranean termites)

Camponotus pennsylvanicus (carpenter ants)

Xylocopa violacea (carpenter bees)

Low Temperature Treatment

Heat treatment

Controlled Atmosphere (Anoxia/C02/Nitrogen/Argon)

Visual inspection

Insulation Perilaneta americana (American cockroach)

Lepisma saccharina (silverfish)

Liposcelidae spp. (booklice or psocids)

Dehumidification (HVAC)
 Wall paper and adhesive Perilaneta americana (American cockroach)

Lepisma saccharina (silverfish)

Visual inspection

Cleaning

 Plaster Ahasverus advena (Foreign grain beetle)

Latridiidae spp. (plaster beetle)

Liposcelidae spp. (booklice or psocids)

Dehumidification (HVAC)
Wooden floor boards and floor voids Anthrenus verbasci (varied carpet beetle)

Lasiderma serricorne (cigarette beetle)

Ptinus tectus (spider beetle)

Stegobium paniceum (drugstore beetle)

Hofmannophila psuedospretella (brown house moth)

Tinea pellionella (casemaking clothes moth)

Tineola bisselliella (webbing or common clothes moth

Visual inspection

Cleaning

Desiccant dust

 

Attics Anobium punctatum (furniture beetle or woodworm)

Dermestes lardarius (larder beetle)

Lyctidae spp. (true powderpost beetle)

Xestobium rufovillosum (deathwatch beetle)

Lepisma saccharina (silverfish)

Rattus norvegicus (Norway Rat)

bats,

Birds (e.g. Passer domesticus – House Sparrow)

Visual inspection

Cleaning

Desiccant dust

Dehumidification (HVAC)

 
 Fine Art Materials
Painting on canvas Generally not vulnerable. Visual inspection
Painting on wood panel Anobium punctatum (furniture beetle or woodworm)

Dermestes lardarius (larder beetle)

Lyctidae spp. (true powderpost beetle)

Heat treatment

Controlled Atmosphere (Anoxia/C02/Nitrogen/Argon)

Visual inspection

Works on paper Lasiderma serricorne (cigarette beetle)

Ptinus tectus (spider beetle)

Perilaneta americana (American cockroach)

Lepisma saccharina (silverfish)

Anoxia

Visual inspection

   Inorganic Materials
Stone Generally not vulnerable.

Outdoor sculpture can be vulnerable to damage from pigeon and bat droppings.

Visual inspection

Cleaning

Metal Generally not vulnerable.

Outdoor sculpture can be vulnerable to damage from pigeon and bat droppings. Additionally squirrel gnawing of lead.

Visual inspection

Cleaning

Ceramic and Glass Generally not vulnerable.

Could be damaged from fly spots, etc.

Visual inspection

Cleaning

Storing and Shipping Components
Plywood, new, unseasoned wood,
Non-archival cardboard, tissue paper

Starch chips (packing peanuts)

Anthrenus verbasci (varied carpet beetle)

Lepisma saccharina (Linnaeus)

Thermobia domestica (firebrat)

Lasiderma serricorne (cigarette beetle)

 

Low Temperature Treatment

Heat treatment

Controlled Atmosphere (Anoxia/C02/Nitrogen/Argon)

New Construction Components    
Plywood Insulation Anobium punctatum (furniture beetle or woodworm)

Dermestes lardarius (larder beetle)

Lyctidae spp. (true powderpost beetle)

Xestobium rufovillosum (deathwatch beetle)

Low Temperature Treatment

Heat treatment

Controlled Atmosphere (Anoxia/C02/Nitrogen/Argon)

 

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