This portion of the site contains information and resources on how to treat infestations. It cannot be stressed enough that treatment of an active pest infestation without getting to the root cause of the problem is of limited value. Museum personnel must determine the source of an infestation, the reasons an infestation exists, and then address permanent, non-chemical solutions to these problems – this is the basis for integrated pest management. Please check our Prevention Resources for assistance.
Determining if the infestation is active:
If an infestation is identified, the first crucial step is to determine if it is active, in which case it should be dealt with promptly to prevent its spread. It can sometimes be challenging to determine if a particular object or specimen is actively infested or merely showing signs of a previous problem.
For single items or groups of items (e.g. within a storage cabinet) active infestations will exhibit live adult or larval insects, fresh frass (insect excrement and debris), and damage. These signs can usually be seen without the aid of magnification. If no live insects are found and/or the signs of infestation are old, the piece should be cleaned, sealed in a clear, museum-quality polyethylene bag and set aside for two to three weeks, in a quiet space. At the end of this period, if frass drifts from the piece, fresh webbing appears, or live insects are seen – then the infestation is active. These signs can easily be detected by shining a flashlight through the plastic bag and onto the piece. If, after several weeks, no further signs of infestation are present, in all likelihood, the infestation is old and not active.
Determining the age and extent of a room or building-level infestation is easily done if you are actively monitoring pest activity levels in your institution’s storage and exhibition areas. Visit this site’s Monitoring page for more information. Treatment options for rooms and buildings will differ greatly from solutions for item level infestations.
Importance of identification:
The next step will be to identify the pest. Identifying the pests involved in an infestation can play an important role in choosing an appropriate treatment. Visit the site’s section on Identification for more resources and information.
There are several ways to treat an active pest infestation and the most appropriate method will depend upon a variety of factors such as:
- Type of collection (mixed media, books and archival collections, ethnographic art, etc.)
- Size of infestation (e.g. single object, storage cabinet or exhibit area)
- Institutional capabilities (e.g. access to an appropriate freezer)
Treatment Fact Sheets for the various treatment options listed below are provided here on the site. These Fact Sheets give a brief description of each treatment solution, discuss what collections materials can be treated this way, outline general procedures and pros and cons of the particular treatment, and touch on supplies, additional resources, and health and safety concerns.
Please note that these documents apply to insect pests. For solutions for vertebrate pests (rats, mice, snakes, lizards) please see Additional Resources.
- Low Temperature Treatment
- Heat Treatment
- Oxygen Scavenger Treatment
- Controlled Atmosphere / Carbon Dioxide Treatment
- Nitrogen / Argon Gas Treatment
- Fumigation with Toxic Gases
- Pesticide Treatment of Collections Areas
- Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) in Collections
- Insect Growth Regulators (IGR’s) for Subterranean Termites
Some of these options can be easily done in-house with some training and investment in resources, others require trained professional assistance. Clicking on any of the above options will allow you to access the Fact Sheet which is designed to help clarify the treatments, allowing for an informed decision making process. While these resources are designed to assist institutions in deciding which remedial treatments may be appropriate for their collections, the IPM-WG cannot guarantee the appropriateness or efficacy of any of these methods.
Additional content that expands on and complements the Fact Sheets include:
- Case Studies: The case studies give information on the experience of a specific institution and are designed to complement the Fact Sheets by providing more specific information on the institution made the choice it did. When appropriate detailed information on procedures and resources are given. Case studies have been provided by various members of the museum community, reviewed and vetted by the IPM-WG. For more information please contact the institution directly.
- Additional Resources: When available, additional resources provided by members the IPM-WG or the museum community have been provided here.
Working with a Pest Management Professional
Most types of treatment and almost all chemical and fumigant options require training and licensing. It is important to work with knowledgeable and experienced Pest Management Professionals (PMPs) to ensure that all legal and health and safety regulations are followed. The Prevention – Pest Management Professionals page contains useful information on establishing a constructive working relationship with a local PMP.
Reasons for Preventive Treatment:
Collections may also be treated ‘preventively’ to ensure there is no infestation. Examples of this include: moving collections into a new space or facility, accepting new acquisitions or reintegrating collections that have returned from loan into collections storage areas, bulk collections of material that cannot be individually inspected, etc.