Pests at Mompesson House

Checking the pest traps

The end of March is here and it’s time to look at the pest traps in the house. This is a subject that seems to divide opinion. Some people are squeamish and don’t want to know, others are fascinated. Thankfully, I fall in the camp of fascinated.

I look at the traps every 3 months to see what pests we have and whether we need to do anything about it. This is a form of preventative conservation to stop damage that can be caused by insects to the collection. We have 46 traps dotted around the house – some are even in areas not used by the public. They are placed in particular locations and are returned to exactly the same spot after being looked at. We can then build a picture of what is happening year on year. The traps are small black boxes with 3 open sides with a rectangle of sticky card placed in the middle. These are known as blunder traps.   

Most of the pests that I look at are tiny and I use a handheld microscope to see them. We are lucky that only a tiny proportion of the UK’s insect species are damaging. Those that are fall into 3 categories: the borers, the shredders and the grazers.

Borers are insects such as furniture beetle and death-watch beetle. Thankfully, we don’t have any death-watch beetle but we do have a tiny bit of woodworm in a couple of pieces of furniture. These are dealt with over the winter clean when I inject a chemical into each new hole that is found.

The shredders are insect larvae like those of carpet beetle and clothes moths. I’m sure most people have come across the damage that clothes moths can do. We put down pheromone traps for moths – the traps attract the male moth and therefore stop them from meeting females and breeding.

The grazers are animals like silverfish and booklice. They eat the surface layers off materials.

Some pests, such as clothes moths and silverfish, are familiar because they can be seen quite easily. Others, like carpet beetle and booklice, are so small you probably don’t even realise they are there. I am often asked about bookworms. A ‘bookworm’ is a popular generalization for an insect that supposedly bores through books and is not a specific animal.

We encounter a variety of different pests in the house - woolly bears, firebrats and booklice among them. The treatment for dealing with 9 out of 10 pests is simply good housekeeping. So, when we find a problem, it’s out with the hoovers! I can report, however, that the traps this quarter were relatively clear and no problems were found.

Some of the pests found in historic houses and museums
Some of the pests found in historic houses and museums
Some of the pests found in historic houses and museums
Close-up of silverfish, common booklouse and woodlice
Pictures of silverfish, common booklouse and woodlice
Close-up of silverfish, common booklouse and woodlice