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.

Read the poster from the American Museum of Natural History on identifying a moth infestation in their ethnography storerooms.

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