The lining of this box has been eaten away by moths
Mould is also a pest, here shown on a feather
Natural objects like paper, wood, fur, feathers and stuffed animals are especially vulnerable to attack by
pests. Pests chew at and burrow into objects, permanently destroying and damaging them. Their droppings also leave marks.
Insects attack organic materials. It
is usually the larvae that do the damage - munching on whatever suitable
food is available before turning into adults. Insect pests include:
- woodworm chew tunnels through wood, weakening it as they go
- carpet beetle larvae are hairy and known as 'woolly bears'. They are quite tidy eaters, but destroy fur,
feathers, wool, and leather
- clothes moth are mucky eaters - leave lots of black frass (insect poop) and ragged holes in textiles
- death-watch beetles only infest old hardwood timbers, in places like roof spaces where they are undisturbed
- termites are common in tropical climates. They eat wood very quickly from the ground up
- booklice feed on tiny moulds on paper and other materials. While they do not damage paper themselves, squashed bodies cause serious staining
- silverfish feed on glue, paste and paper. They leave holes, damage bindings and lift gold lettering to get at
the paste beneath. They are often seen in bathrooms and kitchens - a sign of damp which can cause other problems
Ants, flies, etc do not damage objects but are nuisance pests, and threaten health. Spiders are not insects and
eat pests so are useful.
If insects do invade we can:
- first, establish if we have a live infestation. Look carefully under carpets, in cupboards, under and
behind furniture - is there any frass, insects or damage?
- thoroughly cleaning the object will help
- eliminate the pests with various, carefully controlled methods including low and high temperature
treatments and inert gases. We try to avoid using
toxic chemicals - they can harm people, the environment and sometimes
the objects themselves
This straw work box shows insect holes and was riddled with worm tunnels
Rodents like mice, rats and squirrels will damage objects either for food or to make bedding. Their droppings
and urine also stain items.
Birds like pigeons, starlings and seagulls may nest on roofs, in roof spaces and in chimneys. Dead birds in lofts,
roofs and down chimneys can provide an ideal source of infestation.
Insects such as biscuit beetle and carpet beetle thrive in
Both domesticated and wild animals may cause serious damage by chewing, trampling or scratching objects. Fur,
feathers, hair and droppings left behind can also lead to insect infestation.
There are basic steps we can take to prevent pests damaging our objects:
- avoid providing hiding holes where creatures can lurk - block entry routes with mesh
- keep food and rubbish areas well away from storage, and keep everywhere clean and clear
- use storage materials made from minerals and metal - they are harder to get through and don't taste
as good to invaders
- newly acquired objects may be infested with pests, eg mould and woodworm, so need to be kept in quarantine
until given the all-clear
- make sure cabinets are well-sealed and are easily cleaned in, around and beneath
- avoid high humidity and warm temperatures - insects especially like these conditions
- use sticky traps to monitor for signs of insects
A necklace made from moth cocoons.
We should point out that insects aren't always pests. African San people made this necklace from
large moth cocoons. The grubs are poisonous and are used by the Bushmen to hunt food.
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