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This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Spiders invade St John’s Store

As part of our Heritage Open Week event at our St John’s local history store this year we had a trail looking at our pest management procedures, – not as dire as it sounds!

We positioned large dangling plastic spiders as clues to the location of pictures of pests and their food stuffs. Children had to connect the pest with what it eats and how we stop them from damaging our collection.

So for instance, one spider sat above our bath chair, and on its fabric lined seat was a picture of a clothes moth and a moth trap was placed nearby.  This fiendish device contains pheromones which attract then trap male moths so they can’t go and find females to mate with… 

Insect traps are in the forefront of our battle against the creepy crawlies: silverfish eat paper so visitor books, letters and posters are at risk, but as a non-flier it is easier to control. However, the inappropriately named woodworm, actually a beetle, are the greatest threat in St John’s with 39 pieces of furniture stored there. Again insect traps near windows and doors help.  Regular visual checks ensure none get their teeth into the wood.  If furniture is infested, treating with a special insecticide and then keeping them isolated from the rest of the store, ensures no beetle escapes.

The handy English Heritage guide to Museum pests

The number of nasty nibblers who love wool, carpets, and other fabrics are many.  But they were represented in our quiz by the carpet beetle, again caught by insect traps and vigilant checking. 

Rodents are always a concern in old buildings and St John’s is in an 1875 school, but, mercifully, all holes are blocked and we do not suffer.   But traps and poison are used in the other buildings where we also store collections.

Children seemed to be unfazed by the prospect of killing pests and were very matter of fact about the demise of mice at home.

Good housekeeping: regular checks and cleaning are important and when not open, we use Tyvek covers to protect the collection. And at the event we displayed these and some of the tools we use: from soft brushes, cotton buds, a hoover as well as protection for us, the cleaners: dust masks and vitrile gloves. 

Verity covering up the furniture in St John's after our event with Tyvek covers

The final question on the trail was whether spiders and humans were pests or friends.  Our young visitors quickly grasped the idea that although spiders catch flies, their webs make cleaning difficult and the sticky fingers and messy habits of humans are sometimes worse than the smaller pests!

Note: no pest (regretfully) was harmed during this event.


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