Preventing Insect Infestation
Ultraviolet light, temperature fluctuations, improper storage materials, poor framing practices, atmospheric pollutants and improper handling all contribute to the slow but steady decline of your collection. But there are other, swifter agents of destruction that can destroy a collection more rapidly and more completely than all the earlier mentioned forces combined. They can, literally, eat away a collection in just a few weeks. I am writing, of course, about insects. They can consume, soil or contaminate your collection in the blink of an eye.
The fight against insect infestation in collections is centuries old. Scented woods and herbs were used to prevent insect damage to ancient Chinese scrolls. Unfortunately, ideal storage conditions are equally ideal living conditions for many insects. Most insects thrive in an environment that includes moderate temperature and humidity conditions, an absence of light, and lack of disturbance. The only other thing insects require is a food source, and your collection may be the main course.
There are millions of types of insects in this world, yet only a fraction of these is a threat to your collection. Some of the most common are cockroaches, beetles, moths, silverfish, book lice, and ants. The types that should be of concern to you depend upon your particular geographic location. The warmer the climate, the more at risk your collection becomes. This is due to the larger numbers and varieties of insects in warmer climates.
What should you look for?
First you should remember that while most adult insects are easily seen, eggs and larvae of insects can be nearly undetectable. This is a problem since often times it is during the growth periods of younger insects that most damage can occur. In fact, many adult insects eat little or nothing. In any case, a visual inspection of your collection is the first and best way to prevent insect damage, and regularly scheduled inspections should take place routinely. Look at, under, and around each piece in your collection using a bright light. silverfish packsCheck storage boxes, envelopes, and display cases thoroughly. Framed items should also be inspected regularly. The adhesives used in framing may be an additional draw to insects, which can do all their damage within before any signs of them occur outside the frame package.
Insect traps are a great supplement to visual inspection. They are relatively inexpensive, and extremely effective. "Sticky" traps are the types most often found in museums since they require no pesticides and keep carcasses of killed insects from becoming an attractive food source to other varieties of insects. Traps, too, should be inspected regularly and replaced when necessary.
The best way to avoid insect infestation is to keep storage and display areas clean. Dust and debris provide food and shelter for insects. In addition, food should never be eaten near the collection since the smallest crumb can become an attractant.