For the past week I’ve been working with a specific part of the botany collection; namely the Asteraceae or daisy family.
The reason I’ve been working with the Asteraceae sheets is that they’ve suffered from damage in the past at the hands (or rather the mandibles) of the biscuit or drug store beetle (Stegobium paniceum). This is a relatively common pest that conservators have to deal with and is fairly widespread; feeding on a diverse range of things including dried foods and spices, as well as hair, leather, books, museum specimens, and pharmacological products (hence the alternative name). They leave characteristic holes in the specimens and frass (waste left behind) following their munching.
The good news is that the damage and frass is from an earlier infestation and not one currently ongoing. However, it is important not to take too many chances so I’ve been identifying damaged / potentially infected boxes and freezing their contents for a minumum of four days in a water and air tight plastic bag. The freeze will kill off any biscuit beetles potentially still active in the boxes. Additionally I’ve been cleaning the boxes so that the specimens have a nice, clean, and hopefully insect free home to return to once their time in the freezer is over!