Solutions – Pesticide Treatment of Collections Areas

Title: Pesticide Treatment of Collections Areas

Since the advent of DDT in the late 1940’s, it has been a common belief that insect
infestations can easily be eliminated with the application of pesticides. In fact,
relying on pesticides to solve insect problems in museum settings is limited at best.
Insecticides are a short-term “fix” for most insect infestations in a collection
storage and exhibition setting. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) was developed to
avoid the use of pesticides, instead using a variety of strategies to determine the
source of an infestation, the reasons an infestation exists, and then address
permanent, non-chemical solutions to these problems.Chemical pesticides can be
distinguished from chemical fumigants. View more information on fumigants.The IPM-WG
and does not advocate the use of pesticides or fumigants . This brief
overview is intended to inform members of the museum, library, and archives
communities about pesticides and to clarify frequently misunderstood terminology and
concepts. The information provided here is given to assist preservation personnel in
evaluating treatment options that may be recommended by qualified professionals. This
overview also serves as a cautionary statement, and to direct readers to further
resources.Can collection materials be treated with pesticides?
Cultural materials should NEVER be treated with direct pesticide treatment by space
fogging, direct spraying or dusting. Any direct application of a pesticide will
inalterably change the chemical make-up of an object or artifact.
Treatment of building cracks and crevices However, residual or
contact pesticide application to cracks and crevices of collection storage areas or
exhibit spaces can be an effective tool to help eliminate certain types of localized
infestations. These may only be applied by licensed individuals. The information
provided here is intended to assist preservation personnel in evaluating treatment
options that may be recommended by qualified professionals. Care must be taken not to
expose the collection materials to the pesticides during the application process.If
after careful consideration the collecting institution decides to consult with hire a
licensed pest management contractor to use a pesticide in the building, it is
recommended that all pest incidents and any treatment be recorded. If a pest
management professional proposes to use a pesticide in a facility, they should supply
institution staff with a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each pesticide. The
MSDS should be retained according to building safety procedures in an easily
accessible place for future reference. A detailed, written plan of application should
be offered by the professional to museum management to insure collections are not
exposed to pesticides. A staff member should accompany the professional on each
visit.Even though such pesticides should never be applied directly to collections
items, the use of any chemical treatment in a building should be documented and it
should be possible to access the history of infestation and eradication procedures.
The IPM policy statements on this site give examples of the ways that various museums
carry out documentation. Click here to access the Policy and Procedures templates.,
General procedures for pesticide application to building cracks and
Residual pesticides are those which, after having been applied,
remain effective for at least a week or more. Contact insecticides, as implied by the
term, kill insects on contact. Most residual or contact pesticide applications,
performed by a pest management contractor, entail the use of concentrated pesticides
diluted in water and applied with a pressurized hand sprayer. Some pesticides are
available in pressurized, aerosol formulations, which use solvents and
hydrocarbon-based propellants to carry the pesticide droplets into cracks and
crevices. Pesticide dusts are applied with a hand-duster or aerosol formulation and
are applied to voids, cracks, and crevices. Pesticide fogs are contact insecticides
and are designed to treat an entire space. They are usually generated with some type
of mechanical device. The droplets of fog contain solvents and oils, which remain
suspended in the air for a period of several hours until finally settling out on
everything in the treated space.
Pros and Cons of these types of treatment:
  • Cons:
    • Any pesticide residue directly or inadvertently deposited on collection
      materials is unacceptable. These residues will inalterably change the object
      or artifact. Adverse chemical reactions between the pesticide or its
      carriers and the collection materials can occur and cause irreversible damage to
      the object or artifact. Staining can occur during the application process
      from the water, solvents, or pesticide as it comes in contact with the collection
    • Museum personnel or others may handle the treated collections and thus expose
      themselves to pesticide residues, which may be toxic to humans. This was
      especially evident when many mammalogy, ornithology, herpetology, and
      anthropology collections were treated with arsenic soap or powders in the 1800’s
      and early 1900’s. Staff and researchers today must be careful when handling
      older artifacts or taxidermy mounts because of these applications.
  • Pros:
    • Careful crack and crevice application of pesticides by a licensed pest
      management professional can assist in controlling certain pest
      populations. Endemic, area-wide infestations of carpet beetles, silverfish,
      ants, cockroaches, and booklice (psocids) may be at least partially controlled
      with residual pesticide applications. Note, however, that clothes moth and
      carpet beetle infestations entrenched in susceptible objects and artifacts cannot
      be controlled with these types of applications.
    • In institutions with food serving and/or vending facilities, application of
      pesticide baits, sprays, and dusts may be warranted, if applied by a licensed
      pest management contractor. These types of applications are normally used
      for cockroach and ant control.

Visit the Solutions > Residual
page on this website for additional resources.

Integrated Pest Management Working Group Treatments Subgroup February 2010,
Updated February 2012

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