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Behind the Scenes21st February 2024

Integrated Pest Management in Collections at The Historic Dockyard Chatham

Integrated Pest Management in Collections at The Historic Dockyard Chatham

Since Spring 2023, two of our Conservation Volunteers – Alice Copping and Sharon Lockyer – have been overseeing The Historic Dockyard Chatham’s Insect and Pest Management process in the many galleries and collections areas across our 80-acre site.

You may spot Alice and Sharon lurking in the corners of galleries, between the Namur timbers, or even crawling on the floor in The Ropery. These unusual behaviours are not without purpose; the volunteers are identifying insects and pests that pose a risk to the preservation and longevity of the Dockyard’s important buildings and collections.

What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?

At any point, the Dockyard’s historic buildings, ships, and artefacts may be infested and harbour pests. Those particularly ‘at risk’ are organic materials such as textiles, uniforms or clothing, furniture, and timber structures.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) provides practical, safe, and cost-effective methods to prevent collections and buildings from being damaged by insect pests. If insect pests are identified early enough, we can mitigate the risk they pose through targeted small-scale interventions instead of large-scale chemical treatments which can be both costly and disruptive to staff and visitor experiences.

How does IPM work at the Dockyard?

Alice and Sharon have been responsible for improving and simplifying a procedure that monitors for insect pests that have succeeded in making their way into the Dockyard. So far, they have placed more than 200 insect pest traps in strategic locations across the site. The traps are used to detect insects; the insects wander onto the trap, becoming stuck on the non-toxic adhesive surface.

Every three months, the traps – which are labelled with a unique ID number and specific location – are inspected by Alice and Sharon for insect pests. The number and type of insect pests are recorded in Conserv’s database system. This helps to build a picture across the site, showing what insect pests are where, informing us about the trends in infestation, the risks to particular collections and what should be done to resolve the threat. We can track trends by quarter, but also over years; if the same infestation recurs, is a greater intervention required?

Some insect pests pose different and varying degrees of risk to historic buildings and artefacts. Here are some insect pests that Alice and Sharon have identified over the last six months, along with the danger they pose:

When an insect pest is identified, the Dockyard’s Conservator will agree an intervention. This might include further monitoring, quarantining of a particular artefact or a targeted treatment at the site of infestation.

Why is it important?

Integrated Pest Management helps protect the buildings and collections at the Dockyard. The procedure might not be the most glamorous, but it’s an integral part of ensuring the treasures of the Dockyard are protected for future generations.

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