HELP! What do I do if I have an active infestation?
If you have structural related pests or issues, we suggest immediately seeking a professional opinion. For object-based and internal issues, see below.
It cannot be stressed enough that treating an active pest infestation without addressing the root cause of the problem is of limited, temporary value. Cultural heritage 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.
The first step, if possible, is to isolate the infested object(s) from the rest of the collections to prevent the infestation from spreading. Please see our recommendations on isolation and bagging. Monitoring nearby objects may reveal more problems, see the recommendations on the Monitoring page for assistance determining the extent of the infestation. If you are uncertain whether your infestation is active or old, please see our Solutions page.
Determining Your Pests
The next step is to identify the pest; this will determine appropriate treatment options. The site’s section on Identification has extensive resources and information. Here are some additional quick identification options:
- Pests commonly found based on type of object material
- Pests by their appearance
- English Heritage pest identification poster.
- The dirty dozen pests in museums, libraries, and other cultural heritage institutions.
- Identification of pests by damage caused from the National Parks service.
Once the type of pest(s) have been identified, a treatment method can be determined that is appropriate for both the pest and the object(s). 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, size of infestation, institutional capabilities, and budget. The Solutions page has information on many treatment options.
If you are unsure of the pest identification or the safest way to treat your object, contact a conservator, a relevant email list, or a specialist in cultural heritage pest management for assistance.
If a chemical treatment turns out to be the best option for your object and pest, be aware that 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.
Created March 2018; updated March 2019