For the past week I’ve been working with a specific part of the botany collection; namely the Asteraceae or daisy family.

Figure 1: Artist's impression of Asteraceae/ biscuit beetle interaction.

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.

Figure 2: Helminthotheca echioides (Bristly Oxtongue) showing all the signs of having gone twelve rounds with a (thankfully now departed) biscuit beetle.

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!

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About Trainee Curator

I will be writing a blog about the next twelve months spent as a trainee biological curator based at Manchester Museum.
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One Response to Pesky pests / life in the freezer

  1. Pingback: Integrated Pest Management (IPM) | Trainee Biological Curator

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