Thursday, October 27, 2011

Creepy Crawlies

     Since it’s almost Halloween I thought I’d do a post about a more “creepy” subject, insects.
     One of the less exciting aspects of my job is monitoring for insects in order to detect and prevent insect infestations.  Monitoring is done by placing sticky traps in various locations and recording the number and kinds of insects which are found on them.  

This is a hospital exhibit at the NMCWM.  Displayed in the back
 is a hospital flag.  On the left is a hospital gown and on the right is a hospital
steward's frock coat.  But, can you spot the insect monitor in the exhibit? 

It's probably easier to see it in this view.  The insect monitor (sticky trap)
 is in an inconspicuous spot on the floor.  You may also notice another type of monitor
on the side wall.  That one keeps track of the temperature and relative humidity in the
 exhibit case.  That's a topic for another post though!

     My very first duty here at the museum was dealing with a moth infestation.  My first view of my new office included several moths clinging to the ceiling and the trim of the door.  This is NOT a sight that any collection manager wants to see, much less their first day on the job!  I immediately called the exterminator and put out some moth pheromone traps.  I didn’t shun the low-tech options either.  My new coworkers got used to seeing me patrolling the floor armed with a flyswatter!  Eventually the little winged pests were  eradicated, and everyone was relieved.

The culprit in this instance was Tineola bisselliella, the common clothes moth.

     It turned out that the moths (eggs) had been brought in on a donated item of wool clothing, which was in the quarantine cabinet in my new office.  Once the offending item was discovered it was immediately removed and treated.  Luckily, there were no other cloth items in the quarantine cabinet at the time, but as a precaution the remaining items spent additional time in quarantine being monitored.  It was a good reminder of the importance of the quarantine process.  Though we did have to deal with a moth infestation in our office area, none of the moths got into the collection room or the galleries.  They could have done quite a bit of damage there!           

Here you can see what is probably moth damage on a wool Union Surgeon's frock coat.  I should point out that the coat came to us in this condition!

     I am happy to report that insect infestations are a rare occurrence here.  I’ll certainly do all I can to keep it that way!
Here's my creepy photo.  This is a close-up of an insect monitor from our office hallway, with a large cockroach on it.  Normally I can keep these traps out for a few months, but for some reason my coworkers asked that I get this one out of their sight! 

     Happy Halloween everyone, and may your day be free from insect pests!

Artifact photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

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