Summer Pests

Another danger to your collection resulting from summer’s high humidity is pest invasion.  High RH levels encourage moisture-loving insects to colonize your collection storage areas.  Not all are “heritage eaters,” as one conservator has termed them.  But it is good to monitor these critters and do your best to identify and ultimately control those that could be damaging your collections.

Among the biggest summer threats are silverfish and cockroaches.  Like mold, both thrive in warm, dark spaces.  Both love to eat musty paper and cardboard and can become major forces of destruction.  Silverfish, especially, need high RH levels to survive.  Other bugs, such as roly polys (crustaceans, not insects) love humid environments, and although they do not pose a threat to your collection, their presence can serve as a warning sign that conditions are ripe for a silverfish infestation.


loves high RH--definitely a heritage eater

loves high RH--not a heritage eater


The same bi-weekly summertime inspections of storage areas that we recommend to guard against mold outbreaks can be helpful in determining whether an insect problem exists.  If there is an infestation, you will either see the insects themselves, their leavings (frass, egg sacks, casings), or damaged areas on artifacts.  To help you spot harmful bugs before significant losses occur, place sticky traps along baseboards and windowsills.  Identify the numbers and types of bugs stuck to the trap regularly.  Resources such as and NC State University’s Entymology Department,, can help if you are not sure about the pest or the collection danger it may pose.

 You may want to order CatchMaster insect traps.  One integrated pest management expert recommends these because their pup-tent-style design facilitates identification and their perforation allows separation into thirds.  The following link is one source for purchase:

 Of course, North Carolina’s varied geography and climate means that different parts of the state will experience different insect threats.  For instance, the mountain areas have few roach problems, while roaches in the Piedmont and Down East grow to nearly mouse size and fly! We’d love to hear from around the state about battles you may be waging against heritage eaters and methods you’ve found to be successful in keeping them at bay.


About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on July 27, 2011, in cleaning, collections care, collections management, storage, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Are there any cheaper traps than CatchMaster insect traps?

    • A case of Catchmaster traps costs $51.40 + shipping and contains 100 traps. Each one is perforated into thirds to divide into 3 smaller monitors, making the price (not including shipping) less than 20 cents each. These numbers should be reasonable for even a small museum. I would guess that 30 monitors in a smaller institution might last 1-2 months. At that rate, a case would be roughly a year’s supply. We’d love to hear about other inexpensive options for Integrated Pest Management. David Brook has also asked whether these traps would work well for the huge roaches scurrying around buildings in Eastern NC. That’s a good question. Combat-type roach hotels placed strategically may be a better solution for those nasty beasts.

  2. I just looked at the Catchmaster traps and noted that they are baited with food grade molasses. Should I be worried that the molasses will actually attract pests from adjacent areas? I’m looking to monitor a storage area that’s adjacent to a room where food is consumed to see if critters are migrating, but I don’t want to introduce anything that might actually encourage migration. Are there any sticky traps for monitoring that aren’t baited with attractive food substances, or is that just how it’s done?

    • Great question, Leslie. I only know of sticky traps with either a food/scent attractant or a pheromone attractant. The pheromones wouldn’t be an option though for what you’re trying, since they are species specific. Does UNCC have an entomology dept.? Your question taps out my knowledge on the subject and I wonder if there’d be a contact there to help. If not, NCSU’s dept. will answer questions and I can come up with a contact for you there.

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