Biscuit beetles and Happy New Year!

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

Figure 1: I like this picture so much I’ve included it again! (Artist’s impression of Asteraceae/ biscuit beetle interaction)

So 2013 is now firmly under way and I’d like to wish all my readers a prosperous and happy new year.

But whilst we may have been celebrating the incoming year and reflecting on new challenges ahead, life for the herbarium sheets in Manchester’s collection goes on as normal.  Unfortunately, this includes the persistent threat posed by biscuit beetles (Stegobium paniceum).

I’ve explored the potential damage and prevention measures (freezing) that can be used to control infestations in a previous blog post.

Some of the herbarium sheets that were in the freezer over Christmas and the New Year are now defrosted and ready to be reincorporated into the collection.  However, first there is the small matter of a bit of tidying up which needs to take place due to the damage inflicted by these pesky beetles.

Figure 2: This fern has suffered a lot of damage at the jaws of biscuit beetles!

Figure 2: This plant has suffered a lot of damage at the jaws of biscuit beetles!

The frass (waste left behind), fronds, and larger sections separated from the herbarium sheet need to be collected.  This is acheived by tapping the sheet gently on top of another blank sheet to collect up the material, although sometimes sections may be caught and require removel by hand or tweezers.

Figure 3: the plant material should be collected on a sheet of paper...

Figure 3: The plant material should be collected on a sheet of paper…

Figure 4: ...and is then emptied out into a package or capsule made from folding a section of acid-free paper.

Figure 4: …and is then emptied out into a packet or capsule made from folding a section of acid-free paper.

The packet or capsule containing the plant material is attached to the herbarium sheet in an appropriate spot using PVA adhesive.

Figure 5: The completed herbarium sheet with capsule of material.

Figure 5: The completed herbarium sheet with capsule of material.

On the herbarium sheet itself it may be useful to circle areas of damage so that the next person who views the specimen knows that this is from an old, treated infestation.

You may also decide to write on the packet itself so that people are aware of where the material has come from.

Figure 6: Letting future curators know the reason behind the material in the packet.

Figure 6: Letting future curators know the reason behind the material in the packet.

Hopefully 2013 will be a pest-free year for the herbarium specimens; or at least a year of good pest control!

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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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