Please do not feed the bugs!
We ask that visitors do not eat or drink in the museum. This may seem overly strict but it is for a very important reason.
The collections are entirely natural material, which makes them very appealing to museum pests. Insects such as carpet beetles and moths are attracted to food crumbs and will devour any accidentally dropped by visitors. They then move on to our collections as their next meal.
To guard against pest infestation we have certain measures in place. We quarantine items coming into the museum collections, and freeze specimens that have been affected. However, we can only control the areas involving stores and exhibitions, and need visitors to also take an active role to prevent infestation.
The images below show the devastating effect of these pests on our collections:
Here you can see a taxidermy goat with bare lower legs where clothes moths have eaten away the fur. The adult clothes moths do not cause damage themselves but fly around looking for natural materials to lay their eggs in. When they hatch out, the caterpillars proceed to eat their way through the material – be it fur and feathers in natural history museums, or clothes, carpets and other natural fibres in other museum collections.
This image shows the effect of museum beetle larvae on a papered butterfly collection. These were stored in the donors loft for several years before the collection was donated to the museum. Opening up the collection in a quarantine area meant these pests were found and treated before they could get to our main collections.
The damage caused to a Common Rose butterfly by museum beetle larvae after finding their way into our main collections. Like moths, the adult beetle doesn’t do the damage and it is the larvae which eats collections. These beetles can be particularly damaging to museum objects as they can reproduce asexually (eg they do not need a male and female to reproduce) so a single female can produce thousands of fertile eggs all alone in a drawer of butterflies.
We hope you agree that it is for this important reason that we don’t allow food in the museum!
The gallery below shows a few more images of museum pests and pest damage – click on the gallery for more information: