Pests can pose health and safety risks to your staff. They can also cause damage to your collections by chewing objects, nesting in exhibits, leaving droppings and contaminating storage areas.
Rodents (mice, rats, squirrels), small mammals (porcupines, raccoons, skunks, bats), birds, snakes, and other wildlife can find their way into your building, especially following a disaster. Repair damaged entryways and control waste disposal and sanitation. Place sealed trash immediately in disposable containers or dumpsters. Call animal control to remove unwanted critters.
You may find evidence of an insect infestation: sawdust or other fragments of an items that has been infested, or pieces of insects like shed casings or wings. First you must determine whether the infestation is active or dormant. Clean up the area and wait to see if more debris appears. If there is no sign of further activity, the infestation probably happened in the past.
You can also seal a suspected item in a polyethylene bag and watch for changes. If you find an active infestation in an object, isolate it from the rest of the collection and contact a conservator. Be sure to keep a sample of the insect for identification.
If you suspect a larger infestation, contact an entomologist to identify the species. Then determine the extent of the problem, and develop a treatment strategy. Try to eradicate the problem using non-chemical methods if possible. Make sure that any pest management company or exterminator you hire is licensed and bonded. If the infestation is primarily in your collections, contact a conservator as well.
From the Field Guide to Emergency Response produced by Heritage Preservation in support of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force