Conservation in action at Mompesson House

Kate Vince , Conservation Assistant Kate Vince Conservation Assistant
Checking the pest traps

Kate has been looking in minute detail at the pest traps in the house this month and is now able to share her work with the public as part of conservation in action.

‚ÄčConservation in action is simply anything we do to show, share and involve visitors in our conservation work.

Over the open season at Mompesson House we let the public in on some of the work we do to preserve the house for the future. This can be anything from the day-to-day dusting with the various brushes we use to the cleaning of the Turnbull collection that we demonstrate during the Christmas opening.

The conservation in action that happens at set times every year is IPM or integrated pest management. This is done at three monthly intervals throughout the year in all National Trust properties and at Mompesson. We demonstrate it in front of the public in the entrance hall. Pest traps are located all around the property (not only in the show rooms) and they collect a variety of tiny pests that are difficult to see without a loupe or magnifier and even more difficult to share. Having struggled with hand-held lenses, I have just set up a digital microscope connected to a tablet screen so that everyone can see what I’m looking at. What a difference this has made!

Through the screen I was able to show people that what might look like a grain of sand is actually a book louse. The size of the pests that I’m hunting for are usually minute and very difficult to see without a microscope.

The woolly bear is the larva of the varied carpet beetle
Woolly bear
The woolly bear is the larva of the varied carpet beetle

The pest traps around the house are called blunder traps and they have an adhesive pad that the pests stick to. This gives us a snapshot of what’s in an area of the room. The problem with the blunder traps is that we catch all the insects and spiders that are in the room. I am very aware that the sight of spiders to some people is not what they want to see on their day out. I have now started my own collection of bugs that I keep to show people. These are kept in my desk drawer, much to the amusement of my colleagues. I was rather pleased this week to find some great examples of case-bearing moths to add to my collection.

Case from the case bearing moth that uses fibres from the carpets to house the larva
Case from the case bearing moth
Case from the case bearing moth that uses fibres from the carpets to house the larva

Nine out of ten pests in the house can be dealt with by good housekeeping or getting the hoovers out. The others, usually moths, are dealt with by putting down pheromone traps. The public are very curious about how we deal with such problems especially clothes moths that have become such a problem for people in their own homes. It’s sharing this sort of insight that we aim to engage visitors and give them some idea of the lengths that we go to keep houses like Mompesson for ever, for everyone.

Carpet beetle
Carpet beetle
Carpet beetle