Talk:Integrated Pest Management

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Information copied from 5.2 Pests created by Kmccauley. This text has been integrated into the main page or the Pests page.


Pests, in the form of beetles, moths, termites, silverfish, and other insects as well as mice and birds, can cause damage to collections. Organic materials are particularly vulnerable to pests, including furniture, books and papers, feathers, textiles, and plant materials. Signs that pests may be active in a collection space include: the presence of adult pests, their frass, larvae, or eggs; accumulations of powder or other remnants; or damage in the form of holes, “grazed” surfaces, staining, structural weakening, and loss of material. When this reaches the point where measurable loss occurs (be it financial or aesthetic) or it becomes a health issue, a pest issue is present.

Integrated pest management, or IPM, is the recommended approach to pests. This focuses on prevention and monitoring, and, should an outbreak occur, the use of temperature or atmospheric control instead of pesticides.

Prevention begins with policies that minimize the introduction of pests into collection areas, including quarantining objects coming into the area to check for signs of pest activity, keeping food contained to a separate area, and instituting regular housekeeping. Housekeeping removes debris and any dead pests that could serve to attract further pests. Other levels of control that help prevent pest damage include a secure building envelope (including door sweeps where necessary), appropriate environmental control (low temperatures and low relative humidity discourage pest activity), and housing that can be easily cleaned and keeps materials off the ground and organized.

Monitoring utilizes adhesive traps to track the number and types of pests present in a collection space. This information can be dependent both on the region and seasonal fluctuations, so checking the traps on a regular basis and keeping records can establish patterns that allow for predictive capabilities, further reducing the risk of pests escalating to damage or an outbreak. Think about how pests move through the space when determining where to place adhesive traps, paying particular attention along floorboards and near entrances.

The goals of this are to identify areas where and when additional control may be needed, and/or where it may be recommended to avoid storing vulnerable materials. In cases where an institution has contractors to handle pests on its grounds, guidelines should be established to take into account the additional concerns of collections including not spraying pesticides on objects.

If there is a pest outbreak, IPM discourages the use of pesticides and other chemical treatments (including mothballs- i.e. napthalene), due to the potential for negative effects on the health of people as well as the collection itself, ranging from causing handling concerns to a reduction in research value. This has particularly been an issue for natural history and anthropology collections, and the range of changes caused to materials are difficult to predict.

Treatment options most frequently focus on bagging to isolate the issue, and then using temperature manipulation (low or hot) or anoxic atmospheres (including oxygen scavengers, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon). Choosing among these options involves a number of considerations, and it should kept in mind that not all are safe for all materials. For example, it is not recommended to freeze electronics, and paintings with Prussian blue pigments will undergo a color change if exposed to an anoxic environment. Other considerations involve balancing cost, ability to acquire equipment, and likely size of infestations.