Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A Bug's Life

This week the Conservation team have been tackling the issue of pests in the house.  At this time of year, as the weather gets warmer, our resident bugs start breeding and multiplying, meaning that we have a task on our hands to keep them under control and protect the house and collection. 

Last Wednesday afternoon, we set up a stand in the Marble Hall to talk to visitors about the pests that we encounter at Petworth and how we attempt to tackle them.  We also set up a microscope and projector screen so that visitors were able to take a good look at our pests up close! 

We used a microscope connected to a projector to show the bugs up on the big screen. The sight of giant bugs certainly caught people's attention!
Some of the most common questions were:

How do pests get into the house?

Many visitors were surprised to discover that we had bugs in the house, but in such an old house as Petworth, it’s impossible to keep them out – they can sneak in through any little gaps in the walls, windows and doors or even down the chimneys.  They can also come into the house on an infested object, which is why we check any items coming into the house carefully.

 What sort of pests do you have in the house?

The most common pests that we find in the house are wood-boring furniture beetle and death watch beetle, textile nibbling carpet beetles, clothes moths, silverfish and booklice which graze on organic materials. Our collection is very rich in organic materials from woollen rugs to silk curtains and wooden furniture so it’s a haven for many different types of bugs!

 How do we control the pests?

By cleaning!  We monitor pests regularly using sticky traps in every room in the house, but the best way to keep them under control is to keep the house as clean as possible, so regular hoovering is the key.  Occasionally, if we find an infestation of a pest, we may be able to treat it in an effort to eradicate the pests, but we have to be particularly careful about using any chemicals which could cause damage to the house or objects in our collection.

Caroline Williams
Conservation Assistant

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