Pests

What causes pest damage?

pest cartoon

pest logoThink you’re the only one interested in a good dinner and a comfortable home? Think again! Pests of all kinds—from insects to rodents—would love a chance to dwell inside your walls and nibble on the things you love. Pests are looking for food, shelter, and water. If just one of these needs is interrupted, their ability to survive in your home is usually compromised.

How do you prevent infestation?

Conservators want to make sure museum objects don’t end up in the wrong hands—or mouths! They follow an approach known as Integrated Pest Management, IPM for short. IPM is a holistic system that controls pests through monitoring, good housekeeping, and the focused use of the least toxic treatments.

You can practice IPM at home if you:

  • Keep your home clean and monitor it regularly to determine whether a pest problem exists.
  • Look for rodents, insects, or mold and the debris they produce.
  • Isolate and treat any problems with the least-toxic alternative possible.

Heating or freezing an insect infested object is usually the first approach. Conservators will also modify the atmosphere around an object to remove the oxygen and suffocate an insect pest. Trapping and excluding rodents from an infested area is a very effective strategy.

Not all insects are “pests.” Using a targeted program like IPM, you will not eliminate all insects, just the ones that threaten your belongings.

More things you can do at home:

  • Seal cracks in walls and foundations so that pests won’t be able to come in. Repair holes in window screens and weather stripping, too.
  • Store dried foods, including pet food and birdseed, in sealed metal or glass containers.
  • Wash or dry clean your wool sweaters or clothing before you put them into seasonal storage. Don’t use mothballs; they’re hazardous to your health.
  • Avoid poisons unless absolutely necessary. If you must, apply the poison where pests gather and avoid areas your children or pets could access.
  • Contact a a pest control specialist for further advice.

These critters are common to the museum and your house, but they shouldn’t raise alarm:

  • Spiders
  • House Centipedes
  • Asian Lady Beetles
  • Elm Leaf Beetles
  • Box Elder Bugs
  • Ground Beetles

The presence of these pests indicates a more serious problem:

  • Clothes Moths
  • Cigarette Beetles
  • Drugstore Beetles
  • Powderpost Beetles
  • Carpet Beetles
  • Larder Beetles
  • Hide Beetles
  • Silverfish
  • Indianmeal Moths
  • Flour Beetles
  • Sawtooth Grain Beetles
  • Ham Beetles
  • Cockroaches
  • Termites

Vulnerable Objects:

  • Wool
  • Fur
  • Wood
  • Feathers
  • Decorative objects made from food (e.g. dried chile garlands)
  • Other organic materials

For more information on pests, check out the University of Minnesota extension service:

For more information, email conservation@smm.org.

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