How do we treat mould and pests?

Bookworms aren’t the only ones who enjoy our books. Woodworm, silverfish and other creepy crawlies also want a bite out of our collections.

All new items therefore need to be checked and declared free of mould and pests before they are brought into the collection storage areas.

Down in our basements, in the Quarantine Room, conservators hoover and brush away any mould, while collection items affected by pests are placed in a freezer at -25°C for a month until all insects and eggs are dead.

Meet some of our critters:

  • The larvae of furniture beetles attack wooden book boards, shelving, frames and compressed paper.
  • Silverfish are nocturnal wingless scaly insects (10–15mm) associated with damp conditions. They leave irregular holes in paper and ragged, scraped surfaces. If they are particularly greedy, they will preferentially target areas with glue or ink which may be more nutritious.
  • The varied carpet beetle sheds its skin as it develops and tends to wander around randomly, chewing holes in bindings and mounts where animal glue resides.
  • Biscuit beetle larvae bore holes and cavities in paper, papier maché and starch-rich composite board in books and boxes. 
  • Woodlice (belonging to the Crustacea group which includes shrimp and crabs) love damp high humidity conditions such as rotting wood or vegetation and cause damage by grazing on damp paper and cardboard.
  • Mice can be particularly damaging as they tend to gnaw materials habitually to keep their teeth sharp, while females shred paper to make nests for their young.

Read our blog for more details.

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