Museums across the world are fighting a constant battle to preserve their collections, often competing with an abundance of pesky pests.

Museums, and their collections, particularly those of plant or animal origin, are incredibly vulnerable to attack by pests. The nooks and crannies of the Auckland Museum building provide perfect hiding places for a number of different pests.

 

Many of the insect pests found in the Museum are the same as insects you would find at home such as moths that live in your wardrobe, or weevils in your pantry. However, the objects that are stored and displayed in the Museum are irreplaceable, and preventing pests is essential to ensure the longevity of our collections.

 

Image: Auckland Museum's Famous Five, Auckland War Memorial Museum

 

  

Dermestids are a family of beetles with over 700 species worldwide, including the carpet beetle and the museum nuisance beetle. 

Dermestid larvae are hugely destructive, feeding on skin, hooves, hair, dried flesh, fungi, insects and any fabric that is animal in origin, such as wool.

Rodent infestations can be very damaging to museums as rodents shred and nest in objects, and they also breed rapidly.

A type of dermestid beetle known as the 'museum nuisance beetle' or reesa vespulae, they are incredibly destructive as they reproduce through parthenogenesis (there are only females and they lay eggs without mating!)

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

What can we do to prevent these pests from damaging our collections?

To get on top of pests, you must think like a pest! Insects thrive in warm, humid conditions and love food, so it is important that we make the Museum as unattractive as we can to pests so we don’t invite them in. To do this, we ensure all our windows are sealed.

We also reduce the temperature and humidity so it is too cool and dry for many of the most dangerous pests to survive. The Museum is also kept clean and dust free, and we don’t allow eating and drinking in our galleries, store rooms, and many office spaces.

Our approach to dealing with pests is called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is a widely used approach in museums throughout the world. It seeks to understand what pests are attracted to, their habits and life cycles.

To monitor the Museum for pests, we have hundreds of sticky blunder traps and rodent stations throughout the building. These are checked monthly and any insects are identified and recorded, often with the help of our Entomology Curator. We also have a pest control committee called the Bug Busters who are always on the look out for pests around the Museum.

Collection Manager Georgia Brockhurst inspecting an insect sticky trap from a collection store

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

Preserving our precious taonga and keeping them safe from deterioration is the ultimate goal for the Collection Care department at Auckland Museum. Our biggest tool to keep the collections free from pests is prevention - we want to make sure we don't bring them into the Museum in the first place!

Next time you come to the Museum, have a look to see if you have any hitchhikers on your clothes, and let a staff member know if you see any creepy crawlies (live ones!) in the Museum.

 

 


 

Related Objects

Reesa vespulae

Insect trap

 


 

  • Post by: Georgia Brockhurst

    Georgia is a Collection Manager, Collection Care at Auckland Museum and works in preventive conservation.