It is the organic materials such as woollen textiles, feathers and leather which are at risk from the small creatures that can infest collections. The insects are searching for food, water or nesting materials. They can enter the museum on visitors' clothes, through open doors and windows, and may be introduced by new additions to the collections, loans coming in for exhibitions or even birds roosting or nesting on the building.
The most damaging pests to museum objects include:
- woodworm (Anobium punctatum): eats wood and paper
- carpet beetle (Anthrenus verbasci): feeds on feathers, leather, woollen textiles etc
- clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella): eats textiles
- silverfish (Lepisma saccharina): grazes on paper, starch and dust
An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) scheme is operated in the museum which includes monitoring for the insects listed above, good housekeeping and careful use of the least toxic treatments (e.g. freezing or an anoxic environment).
The presence of insects in the museum is monitored using ‘pheromone’ and 'blunder’ traps. The traps are placed at likely points of entry and at vulnerable sites where insects are either attracted to the pheromone or walk across the blunder trap and held in the non-setting glue. If pests are found, appropriate measures can be taken. Any organic objects entering the museum from other places are either quarantined for a period and monitored for outbreaks, or put through a freezing programme to kill any pests they may be harbouring.