furs, weevils, and mothballs?

Viewing 12 reply threads
  • Author
    • #132838

      Howdy, all.

      I’m a sole museum staffperson with no formal collections training and a $0 collections care budget (working to change this!). Thankfully, we have a group of dedicated (though untrained) volunteers and some Questers groups who have helped to provide grant funds for some basic supplies. We are working on a collections inventory and assessment, and a local taxidermist came in to help us identify species of some fur coats and lap blankets we have. He told us that some of the items are infested with “weevils” (I’ve not seen them yet, but I suspect dermestids?), and he recommended packing the items in mothballs. Are mothballs an acceptable conservation treatment, or are there better options? I’ve tried searching but haven’t come up with much.

      Thanks muchly, -Katie

    • #132850
      Anne Murray

      Katie as a Conservator I strongly advise against using moth balls. There are different methods of getting rid of infestations such as anoxia  chambers and freezing. Here are a few links to start with on freezing objects




    • #132849
      Anne Murray
    • #132848

      Dear Colleagues,

      I think that this topic is so important nowadays that many institutions and collections have mold and insects infestations due to the change of temperatures resulted from climate change and global warming.

      I do not think that it’s a good idea to such send different methods of getting rid of infestations such as anoxia chambers, freezing and others to end-users without really sharing good and bad results obtained. There are many procedures but it depends in the specific situation that you have. I recommend you to read about it but also contact an entomologist to be certain that your technique will not have negative effect on other items in your collection thus health hazards for people handling the objects. There are a lot of things out there that different folks are using to erradicate insects infestations. Get well informed before trying these methods on objects. This forum is a good tool to share what works? and what doesn’t?

      Valeria Orlandini

      Conservator of Works on Paper, Parchment and Photographic Materials

      AIC, Professional Associate

    • #132847

      Hi Katie,

      Did the taxidermist tell you which items were infested? If so, can you separate the damaged items from the remaining collection to contain the problem?

      One of the best things you can do now is to get familiar with how to identify an infestation so you can confirm that it is the bug you think it is and identify items affected and attempt to contain the infestation. I posted a few short pamphlets that can get you started and help you figure out your next steps.  I just did a quick Google search with “infestation textile collection” and there was a lot more information that could hopefully be helpful for you.




    • #132846
      Janice Klein

      While it is helpful to know which are the infested pieces, I would strongly suggest that you bag each piece separately.   This is good standard procedure for any organics that come into your museum that have the potential to have an infestation.    Polyethylene bags are available in a variety of sizes and thicknesses (also in rolls of varying widths) from many companies.   I have always had good results from Associated Bag (http://www.associatedbag.com/).    This will keep the insects from moving from one piece to another.

      While it is possible to treat moth infestations with para-dichlorobenzene, the active ingredient in moth crystals (as opposed to napthalene, which is a repellent, not an insecticide, and was used in moth balls), the better option is to freeze the objects.    The NPS has a Conser-o-Gram on the subject: http://www.nps.gov/museum/publications/conserveogram/03-06.pdf that you will find useful.    Most museums, of course do not own the kind of freezer necessary (a home freezer doesn’t get cold enough), but you may have access to one somewhere in your community.

      And, of course, it is important to know what kind of “weevils” you have 🙂

      An excellent source of information about museum pests and pest control is Museumpests.net: http://www.museumpests.net/

      Good luck!


    • #132845
      Rachael Arenstein

      As the co-chair of the IPM Working Group which created the museumpests.net website, I want to point out that the whole reason for the site is to present the information in context in the way suggested by Valeria.  So that even museum staff without much background can educate themselves on the issues, see what their options are and choose the one best for their collections and budget.  But to reiterate what Janice pointed out, bagging with moth balls won’t kill the infestation.  Freezing, which is the method of choice for skins and textiles will and is often less involved than anoxia.  The procedures in the Solutions section of the museumpest website point out the important steps necessary to safeguard items during this process.  While a home freezer won’t do the trick, bagging and using cold storage will at least slow down the activity giving you some more time to make a decision.

    • #132844

      Excellent! Thank you so much for the tips! I knew the community would help point us in the right direction! We have a university research station in the area – perhaps they have an appropriate freezer we could use.

    • #132843

      Oh, and it was only a couple of items that had infestations, so the number of items we will have to treat is not too large.

    • #132842

      I think that we all agree that it cannot be stressed enough that treatment of an active pest  infestation in an object or/and a collection without getting to the root cause of the problem is of limited value. I am glad that Rachael concurred with what I said previously. I do know that different institutions use various methods and can be environmental friendly and/or using various fumigation methods as well. Therefore, I am really enthusiastic to ask the experts  to help with the prognosis and find out specific questions to conservators, entomologists, taxidermists, and others to then proceed with whatever method you think will work best for your situation and the object’s needs.

      There was a really good talk at the ‘Climate for Collections Conference’ in November 2012 in Munich, Germany entitled “The influence of the museum environment in controlling insect pests” by Entomologist Robert Child from the UK. This paper will be available online shortly by the organizers of the conference organized by the Doerner Institut.

      Also, there will be a IPM course in Vienna, Austria on 3-4 June 2013.


      This workshop will give you guidance on how to deal with insect pest problems likely to be encountered in museums, collections, archives and historic houses. It will focus upon insects and the damage they cause, together with new information on the detection, monitoring and trapping of pests. The emphasis is on pest-prevention as the key to successful IPM, but will also evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of physical and chemical control measures. Practical sessions include; identification of insects and insect damage and apractical survey exercise.

    • #132841
      Rachael Arenstein

      A bit closer to home will be the IPM workshop at this year’s AIC annual meeting in Indianapolis.  The program will be taught by Pat Kelley from Insects Limited, Emily Kaplan from Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and myself.  I will paste in details below but it is open to one day registrants.

      Registration information can be found at http://www.conservation-us.org/meetings
      Integrated Pest Management for Collections J. W. Marriott Hotel, Indianapolis, Indiana May 29, 2013
      9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., $139 (must be registered for conference – special $100 rate for those attending only a workshop on May 29) Organized by AIC’s Collections Care Network
      Preventing damage from pests is an essential task in the responsible management of all collections. Implementing an appropriate Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan is the best way to prevent infestations from taking root and to deal with any problems in a safe and effective manner. Participants will receive a basic introduction to IPM in order to be able to assess appropriate options for their institutions and collections in areas of policy and procedures, preventing infestations, trapping and monitoring, and remedial treatment. 
      Participants will learn to identify ways in which pests gain access to collections, how a pest monitoring program can be implemented, how to identify some of the most common and harmful museum pests, the pros and cons of a range of remedial treatments, and how to develop IPM policies and procedures for an institution.

    • #132840

      Many thanks Rachael for sharing this information about the next IPM for Collections training at the AIC Annual Meeting 2013 in Indianapolis, next May.

      I wanted to share that information of the workshop in Austria so that more colleagues in America are familiar with the problem of pest control related with climate change. The effects of global warming have resulted already with the proliferation of new insect pest problems likely to be encountered in many museums, collections, archives and historic houses in various climate systems (e.g. due to floods, excess of moisture in the soil or droughts, as well).

      Insects (as well as mold infestations) become more resilient to the new environmental conditions thus more complex to eradicate the problems in different regions of the world. The emphasis by Mr. Child is on pest-prevention, monitoring traps, training staff the look for bugs, insects and rodents (where they mate, locate nests and specially during the Spring seasons when they recreate and others), avoid consuming food in the premises that you store collections since it will attract pests, identify sources of objects/items that can be attacked and relocate them to make it more difficult by boxing materials at risk (by creating physical barriers) and carrying out surveys as the key to have a successful IPM. He addressed that these methods should be in practice and not only consider various physical and chemical control measures; without then analyzing and evaluating the advantages and disadvantages in the building, storage areas, exhibitions, and loan policies among others. The decision-making progress needs to have consideration of finding procedures that are environmental (mainly green) measures and avoiding risks to other objects and/or personnel handling the materials. Therefore, the proper detection, identification of insects and insect damages on objects and/or collections are essential. These are some of the ideas and his work. His talk during the Climate for Collections Conference 2012 in Munich was really worthwhile and very useful information for collections conservators, keepers and custodians of holdings.

      Hope this information will be helpful.


    • #132839

      Another very good resource is: Thomas A. Parker,
      President, Entomologist at Pest Control Services, Inc.

      Phone: 610-444-2277
      469 Mimosa Circle
      Kennett Square, PA 19348
      E-mail: <bugman22@aol.com>

Viewing 12 reply threads
  • The forum ‘C2C Community Archives – 2012 through 2014’ is closed to new topics and replies.