Museums have always been exciting and enriching places to visit for people of all ages. However the nuisance and damage caused by museum pest is one of the major challenges that we are currently facing. Museum pests are biological agents that can cause damage to museum collections. Museum collections are very susceptible to such pest attacks. These pests are responsible for substantial damage to museum objects, historic books and in buildings like palaces or historic houses. The cumulative effects of this damage can ultimately destroy a museum object.
Lack of sanitation and poor maintenance of museums are the major reasons to attract pests. Many different types of artifact created from every imaginable material in museums throughout the world are responsible for both the rodent as well as insect infestation. The collection of material, antique in such museums is a very good source of food for these pests. Pests come in a variety of forms: insects, rodents, bats, birds and mold. For insects, often the first evidence of their presence is the resultant damage, cast skins, or fecal spots rather than the pest itself. Insect pests that cause the most damage to museum collections can be classified into several types based on the kind of food sources they seek. Textile or fabrics pests, wood pests, stored product pests, paper pests, general pests are some of them. Wood mainly attracts burrowing insects that leave residue called frass and molted skins from larvae. These insects burrow into the wood causing a significant amount of structural damage. The most commonly found burrowing insects are the carpenter ants, termites and furniture beetles. Textile in costumes, carpets, upholstery and other objects attract clothes moth. Webbing clothes mob, case making moth and carpet moth are the types of moth that are commonly encountered. Paper and adhesive are usually damaged by silverfish which leave a characteristic pattern of damage called as ‘grazing’. Grazing is a type of damage where the surfaces are partially eaten by insects thus damaging them. Book lice also wreak havoc on book pages by poking holes in them as they feed.
The nests of mice, rats, birds and bats also affect museum collections because they can attract insects that may then move into collections seeking a food source. Poisonous baits deployed to control infestations and dead rodent carcasses will also provide a food source for a range of insect pests, including clothes moths, carpet beetles, blowflies and hide & leather beetles.
Insects infest not all collections of objects in an equal ways. Mostly natural history collections with large numbers of dried insects, usually stored in drawers, dry plant material in herbaria, stuffed animals, fur and skeleton specimens are at a very high risk of infestation and damage. Large numbers of objects of these vulnerable materials are stored close to each other and in dark areas. This helps the spread of an infestation from one drawer or closet to the other.
The second high-risk collections are ethnographic objects, which have similar materials as the natural history museums. In addition, a large amount of fur, feather, leather, plant materials or wood is stored together. Many of these objects like pumpkin vessels or textiles are stained (with food, body oil, sweat or urine), which is part of their use and cultural history and make them even more attractive for the insects feeding on them.
Libraries and archives is also a very vulnerable site for pest infestation. Only a few insect species feed on paper and the historic bookbinding, but they can result in severe damage if the infestation is not found.
Historic buildings like castles, palaces, or old museum buildings usually have resident populations of insect pests found in shafts, unused chimneys, under wooden floors or behind wooden walls. Finding and getting rid of these pest populations is often very difficult and costly.
Bio-deterioration of the building material is another major type of damage caused by the pests. It is caused by several biological agents like the bacteria, insects, rodents, lichens, mammals, birds, mosses etc.
Let us now look at the following case study. Over the last century, there has been at least one period of high activity of wood destroying fungi and insects in Estonia. After World War II, many cultural monuments had to be renovated and refurbished. Since substandard building materials, including timber with inadequately high moisture content were used, the wood destroying fungi easily spread all over Estonia. In many buildings, slightly damaged elements were replaced by new elements of same size and shape, whereas the growth of the destroying insects and fungi was enhanced as the spread rate in fresh timber is manifold higher than in the old one.
Also recently a depiction of an ancient sword brought in for the museum’s Steel and Gold – Historic Swords exhibition in 2013, had been chewed full of holes by pests.
Let us also look at news pertaining to damage caused by pests to heritage buildings.
Beak hour traffic destroying heritage buildings
September 2013, The Sydney morning Herald, Australia
RESIDENTS have tried everything to get rid of them: flashing lights, rubber snakes, spikes on sills, mirrors on windows, chilli oil on woodwork, even lying in wait with hoses or water pistols. But the sulphur-crested cockatoos of Potts Point, which have caused more than $40,000 in damage to one building alone, are absolutely incorrigible, say infuriated residents, whose plan for a cull is stuck in bureaucratic limbo.
Many of the homes affected are in heritage-listed, art-deco buildings, with wooden window frames eaten through by the birds. At Kingsclere, a 1912 building on Macleay Street, cockatoos have destroyed slate roof tiles, causing them to drop seven storeys to the street.
We need an effective solution for this problem. Termirepel™ a non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, non-hazardous and environment-friendly insect repellent is definitely an effective and long lasting solution to control the pest menace in museums. Termirepel™ works against 500 species of insects. Termirepel™ is available in form of solid masterbatches, liquid form, and lacquer. The product does not kill the target species; it just repels them. It follows 6 tiered mechanism, which is extremely effective on insects like termites, ants, beetles etc. It is RoHS, RoHS2, REACH compliant and FIFRA exempted. Termirepel™ liquid concentrate and the lacquer can be coated on the walls, furniture and other surfaces which require protection from the pests.