Thursday, May 9, 2013

An Unwelcome Visitor

     I never like getting the phone calls that begin, “There’s a bug downstairs!”  Insects can pose a threat to many of the museum’s artifacts, so part of my job involves documenting any insect sightings.  I identify each pest, and keep a log to record when and where they were found.  This helps to determine if it’s just one insect which wandered into the museum, or if I have to take steps to mitigate an infestation.


This was the culprit responsible for the latest call.  My first task was to identify it, so I took photos of it before I ensured that it wouldn’t be crawling anywhere else in my museum!  It was an Oriental Cockroach or Blatta orientalis.

     Cockroaches are scavengers and will eat pretty much anything organic.  Many of the museum’s artifacts are composed of organic materials such as wood, paper, glues, leather, and fabrics. 


Books contain several potential sources of food – the leather or fabric covers, the paper pages, and the glue.


This wood ankle splint and its leather straps would also be attractive to cockroaches and other insect pests.


Though a glass bottle would not be vulnerable to insect damage, the paper label, glue, and cork on this one could be attractive to them. 
The label indicates that this medicine bottle held morphine sulphate, which was used as a pain-killer.


This is a paper packet was found in a Confederate drug kit and contains “Liquorice”.  The paper, the cotton string, and the powdered plant material contained inside the packet would all be vulnerable to insects.


This green silk Civil War Surgeon's sash would be attractive to many insect pests!


You can see the insect damage done to the leather and hair covering of this field medical kit.  This is why is it so important for me to take all possible precautions to keep insect pests out of the museum!


     Seeing one cockroach isn’t a reason to put the museum on high alert, but it is still wise to take some precautions.  In addition to removing the offending insect, I will be monitoring the area to ensure that it was simply one stray insect.  In addition to logging the sighting, I will be checking the sticky traps in the area, ensuring that the area is cleaned well, and reminding the staff to let me know if they spot any other unwelcome intruders. 

     Let’s hope that next week’s blog post is not about dealing with a cockroach infestation!


Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.



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