Protecting our museums from pest infestation!

Museums have always been exciting and enriching places to visit for people of all ages. However, the nuisance and damage caused by museum pest are one of the major challenges that we are currently facing. Museum pests are biological agents that can cause damage to museum collections. Museum collections are very susceptible to such pest attacks. These pests are responsible for substantial damage to museum objects, historic books and in buildings like palaces or historic houses. The cumulative effects of this damage can ultimately destroy a museum object.

Lack of sanitation and poor maintenance of museums are the major reasons to attract pests. Many different types of the artifact created from every imaginable material in museums throughout the world are responsible for both the rodent as well as insect infestation. The collection of material, antique in such museums is a very good source of food for these pests. Pests come in a variety of forms: insects, rodents, bats, birds, and mold. For insects, often the first evidence of their presence is the resultant damage, cast skins, or fecal spots rather than the pest itself. Insect pests that cause the most damage to museum collections can be classified into several types based on the kind of food sources they seek. Textile or fabrics pests, wood pests, stored product pests, paper pests, general pests are some of them. Wood mainly attracts burrowing insects that leave residue called frass and molted skins from larvae. These insects burrow into the wood causing a significant amount of structural damage. The most commonly found burrowing insects are the carpenter ants, termites, and furniture beetles. Textile in costumes, carpets, upholstery and other objects attract clothes moth. Webbing clothes mob, case making moth and carpet moth are the types of moth that are commonly encountered.  Paper and adhesive are usually damaged by silverfish which leave a characteristic pattern of damage called as ‘grazing’. Grazing is a type of damage where the surfaces are partially eaten by insects thus damaging them. Booklice also wreak havoc on book pages by poking holes in them as they feed.

The nests of mice, rats, birds, and bats also affect museum collections because they can attract insects that may then move into collections seeking a food source. Poisonous baits deployed to control infestations and dead rodent carcasses will also provide a food source for a range of insect pests, including clothes moths, carpet beetles, blowflies and hide & leather beetles.

Insects infest not all collections of objects in an equal way. Mostly natural history collections with large numbers of dried insects, usually stored in drawers, dry plant material in herbaria, stuffed animals, fur and skeleton specimens are at a very high risk of infestation and damage. Large numbers of objects of these vulnerable materials are stored close to each other and in dark areas. This helps the spread of an infestation from one drawer or closet to the other.

The second high-risk collections are ethnographic objects, which have similar materials as the natural history museums. In addition, a large amount of fur, feather, leather, plant materials or wood is stored together. Many of these objects like pumpkin vessels or textiles are stained (with food, body oil, sweat or urine), which is part of their use and cultural history and make them even more attractive for the insects feeding on them.

Libraries and archives are also a very vulnerable site for pest infestation. Only a few insect species feed on paper and the historic bookbinding, but they can result in severe damage if the infestation is not found.

Historic buildings like castles, palaces, or old museum buildings usually have resident populations of insect pests found in shafts, unused chimneys, under wooden floors or behind wooden walls. Finding and getting rid of these pest populations is often very difficult and costly.

Bio-deterioration of the building material is another major type of damage caused by the pests. It is caused by several biological agents like the bacteria, insects, rodents, lichens, mammals, birds, mosses etc.

Let us now look at the following case study. Over the last century, there has been at least one period of high activity of wood-destroying fungi and insects in Estonia. After World War II, many cultural monuments had to be renovated and refurbished. Since substandard building materials, including timber with inadequately high moisture content, were used, the wood destroying fungi easily spread all over Estonia. In many buildings, slightly damaged elements were replaced by new elements of same size and shape, whereas the growth of the destroying insects and fungi was enhanced as the spread rate in fresh timber is manifold higher than in the old one.

 Also recently a depiction of an ancient sword brought in for the museum’s Steel and Gold – Historic Swords exhibition in 2013, had been chewed full of holes by pests.

Let us also look at news pertaining to damage caused by pests to heritage buildings.

Beak hour traffic destroying heritage buildings
September 2013, The Sydney morning Herald, Australia

RESIDENTS have tried everything to get rid of them: flashing lights, rubber snakes, spikes on sills, mirrors on windows, chili oil on woodwork, even lying in wait with hoses or water pistols. But the sulfur-crested cockatoos of Potts Point, which have caused more than $40,000 in damage to one building alone, are absolutely incorrigible, say, infuriated residents, whose plan for a cull is stuck in bureaucratic limbo.

Many of the homes affected are in heritage-listed, art-deco buildings, with wooden window frames eaten through by the birds. At Kingsclere, a 1912 building on Macleay Street, cockatoos have destroyed slate roof tiles, causing them to drop seven storeys to the street.

We need an effective solution to this problem. Termirepel™ a non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, non-hazardous and environment-friendly insect repellent is definitely an effective and long-lasting solution to control the pest menace in museums. Termirepel™ works against 500 species of insects. Termirepel™ is available in form of solid masterbatches, liquid form, and lacquer. The product does not kill the target species; it just repels them. It follows 6 tiered mechanism, which is extremely effective on insects like termites, ants, beetles etc.

It is RoHS, RoHS2, REACH, APVMA, NEA compliant and FIFRA exempted. Termirepel™ liquid concentrate and the lacquer can be coated on the walls, furniture and other surfaces which require protection from the pests.

Termite nuisance!

Termites comprise a large and diverse group of ecologically and economically important insects that feed on cellulose, primarily in wood. Worldwide there are over 2,600 species of termites and about 23 different species are found in California alone. Termites are eusocial insects that are classified at the taxonomic rank of infraorder Isoptera. Termites were once classified in a separate order from cockroaches, but recent studies indicate that they evolved from close ancestors of cockroaches during the Jurassic or Triassic.

Termites can be grouped into three basic categories:

Dampwood: Dampwood termites are normally larger in size than other termite species. Like dry wood termites, dampwood colonies don’t have workers. Younger termites called “false workers” do all the work for the colony.

Drywood: Drywood termites obtain water from the wood in which they live and have no contact with the soil, or with any other source of moisture. Drywood termites form colonies of up to 2,500 members.

Subterranean: Subterranean termite colonies can have up to 2 million members! Their colonies are divided into three groups: workers, soldiers, and reproductives. Subterranean termites are generally ground-dwelling or require contact with the soil or some constant source of moisture and are the main threat posed to timber in the built environment.

Formosan: Formosan termite colonies can be up to 300 feet long and there can be tens of thousands of termites in a single colony. Formosan termite colonies are divided into three groups: workers, soldiers, and reproductives. They are the largest and most destructive kind of termite.

Termites are among the most successful groups of insects on Earth, colonizing most landmasses except for Antarctica. Their colonies range in size from a few hundred individuals to enormous societies with several million individuals. Like ants and some bees, termites divide labor among castes consisting of sterile male and female “workers” and “soldiers”. Worker termites are wingless, soft-bodied, and light caramel in color. They comprise the largest contingent in most colonies and are the individuals most frequently seen when infested wood is examined. Workers are reproductively undeveloped. They are responsible for the care of eggs and immature; foraging for food; feeding and hygiene of nestmates, including the queen; and construction and maintenance of shelter tubes, galleries, and/or other colonial structures. Workers can also be involved in the protection of the colony but are not as fierce as the soldiers.

Soldiers can vary greatly in morphology but, generally, have larger, amber or brownish heads and larger mandibles than workers. They guard the colony and defend it against predators.

All colonies have fertile males called “kings” and one or more fertile female called “queens”. Termite queens have the longest lifespan of any insect in the world, with some queens reportedly living up to 30 to 50 years. Colonies are described as superorganisms because the termites form part of a self-regulating entity: the colony itself.

Termites are often called the “silent destroyer” because they secretly hide and thrive in houses or yards without any immediate signs of damage. All termites consume cellulose-based plant materials. Unfortunately, all homes, regardless of their construction type, can provide cellulose food for termite infestation.

Termites are detritivores or detritus feeders. They feed on dead plants and trees. Termites get nutrients from cellulose, an organic fiber found in wood and plant matter. Wood makes up the majority of the pest’s diet, although termites also eat other materials such as paper, plastic, and drywall. Most species prefer dead wood, but some termites feed on living trees. Each type of termite has its own dietary preferences. Subterranean termites prefer softwoods but may invade most species of wood. Dampwood termites generally stay close to the ground but will choose moist, decaying wood anywhere it is found. Drywood termites are often found in attics and require little moisture in the wood they eat.

A termite’s mouth is capable of tearing pieces of woody material. This ability is what causes concern in human dwellings. While termite workers only measure approximately 1 cm to a few millimeters in length, their feeding habits are capable of causing costly damage to property. House foundations, furniture, shelves and even books are all possible feeding sites for termites. Termites can single-handedly ruin and destroy a house’s very foundation and character in just a few short years.

The following list indicates common signs of a subterranean termite infestation.

  • The presence of mud-like material that lines the galleries in an irregular pattern. Termites may excavate the wood so that only a very thin layer of wood is left on the surface of the cavity and the outside. Then this layer is broken; termites will further cover the holes with mud like material, used to make the tubes. This is a mixture of soil, feces, and saliva.
  • Swarmers: The appearance of a swarm also known as “flying ants”, especially near light sources is a common indication of infestation. This also indicates a nest may be near. A “swarm” is a group of adult male and female reproductives that leave their nest to establish a new colony. Swarming occurs when a colony reaches a certain size.
  • Mud Tunnels: Subterranean termites maintain their headquarters in the ground and build “mud tubes”, that connects the nest (moisture) to the food source (wood).The tunnels may contain broken mud particles with fecal materials. Mud tubes or shelter tubes are proof of termite infestation, but their absence does not necessarily mean that a structure is free of termites. The insects may reach sills and other wood members through cracks or voids in the foundation wall, under the outside stucco, or from earth-filled porches, steps, terraces, or patios.
  • Piles of wings: The shed wings of swarmers indicate termites have entered their next phase of development.
  • Damaged wood: Wood may appear crushed at structural bearing points. Termite damaged wood resonates with a dull thud (hollow sound) when tapped with a hammer.

Some interesting facts about termites

  • Each year, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage.
  • The total weight of all of the termites in the world is more than the weight of all the humans in the world.
  • Termite colonies eat non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week!

Now let us also look at the significant role that termites play in our ecosystem. They recycle nutrients, in particular, nitrogen which is essential for healthy plant growth. When termite mounds erode, the soil particles rich in nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium are washed into the soil from the mounds to become available for plant growth. Their excavations alter the structure of trees and provide spaces which have become a necessary part of the habitat of many vertebrate species including bats, birds, reptiles and arboreal mammals. Therefore the use of toxic pesticides and insecticides is not an ideal solution to prevent and control this damage caused by termites.

C Tech Corporation can offer a solution to overcome the damage caused by termites. Termirepel™ – an anti-termite additive is an ideal solution for the prevention and control of termites. The product does not kill the target species causing damage but only repels it. It follows 6 prolonged strategy which is extremely effective on termites as well as insects like ants, beetles, grasshopper, bugs etc.

Termirepel™ is non-toxic and nonhazardous anti termite and anti-insect polymer additive. It is thermally stable and does not degrade on exposure to heat and sunlight. It does not volatilize and does not degrade in the soil. It is RoHS, RoHS2, REACH, APVMA, NEA compliant and FIFRA exempted.

Rasberry crazy ants!

rasberry-crazy-ant-01The Rasberry crazy ant or tawny crazy ant, Nylanderia fulva, is an ant originating from South America. This species is called “crazy ant” because of its quick, erratic movements. It is also called the “Rasberry crazy ant” in Texas after the exterminator Tom Rasberry, who noticed that the ants were increasing in numbers in 2002.

The ant is about 0.125 inches long, thus smaller than the red imported fire ant. It is covered with reddish-brown hair. The colonies live under stones or piles; they have no centralized nests, beds, or mounds. The ants appear to prefer the warmth and moisture of the coast. The simplest way to describe tawny crazy ant behavior is disorganized, chaotic foraging by worker ants, and colonies with queens who possess enormously abundant reproductive potential.

The Texas A&M University research extension service quotes the annual rate of spread by ground migration as about 240 and 360 m per year in neighborhoods and industrial areas, respectively, and 207 m/year in rural landscapes, hence spreading more slowly than fire ants. Other sources quote 800 m per year. Being carried by people, animals, and vehicles (in trash for example), the observed rate is much higher: the spread from five Texas counties in 2002 to 20 in 2007 yields an accelerated rate of 8 km (5.0 mi) per year, at which rate it would take about 70 years for them to reach New Orleans. However, in 2011, tawny crazy ants were reported in Mississippi, in August 2012 in Port Allen Louisiana, and in 2013 in Georgia.

Tawny crazy ants are omnivores. They consume just about any sweet or protein substances. Sweets commonly eaten are honeydew (excretions produced by aphids and other insects), sweet portions of plants, over-ripe fruits, and honey from beehives. Protein sources include small insects and small mammals that are overcome by the numerous workers that attack. The workers are most active and plentiful in the early spring, while foraging is limited in the winter months. Colonies produce millions of workers by mid-summer and continue to thrive throughout the fall. Crazy ants build nests under almost any object or inside any void that remains moist.

One of the more fascinating aspects of tawny crazy ant behavior is their habit of infesting electronic equipment in large numbers. Infestations in electrical equipment can cause short circuits, sometimes because the ants chew through insulation. Overheating, corrosion, and mechanical failures also result from accumulations of dead ants and nest detritus in electrical devices. If an ant is electrocuted, it can release an alarm pheromone in dying, which causes other ants to rush over and search for attackers. If a large enough number of ants collects, it may short out systems.

It is unclear why colonies of Nylanderia fulva, like many species of ants, are attracted to electrical equipment. They may sense the magnetic fields that surround wires conducting electric current, or they prefer the warmth produced by resistance to the currents in the wires. Some argue they simply are searching for food or an attractive place to nest.

Let us look at some current news articles pertaining to the damages caused by these crazy ants:

Exterminator says ‘Rasberry Crazy Ants’ coming to SC
July 27, 2016, South Carolina, USA

Exterminators are issuing a warning for homeowners about a type of ant we haven’t seen in the Carolinas but could be here before we know it.

Swarming by the millions, this isn’t something you’ll want to find in your house.

“And these will be the dominant ant, they will wipe out everything in its path,” said Brandon Johnson of ipest inc. “And the threat they pose to us is they can virtually live in anything, anywhere.”

Johnson says they’re called Rasberry Crazy Ants. They were founded by an exterminator in Texas back in 2002, but as their numbers have grown, they’ve continued to expand their territory. Cases have been seen in Georgia in recent years and Johnson says South Carolina is next.

“What we need to worry about is the electrical panels being shorted out by these massive numbers,” Johnson said. “We don’t know why, but they are attracted to electricity fields.”

Johnson says nothing you can buy in a store will stop them from getting into your home and multiplying. While they don’t sting or bite, he says they’ll get into your food, they could be a fire hazard with your electrical equipment and besides, do you really want all those ants running around everywhere?

Another incident pertaining to the destruction of electronics by these ants was reported recently in Texas, USA.

Ant invaders making Texans crazy
December 20, 2016, Texas, USA

There’s a hitchhiker traveling across Texas, and if it hasn’t yet crawled into your computer, plugged up the electrical pump on your well or just chewed through your serenity, standby.

Seven Texas counties have reported crazy ants this fall, adding to the 28 reported last year, and Robert Puckett, a Texas A&M entomology professor, thinks there are probably others that don’t yet realize they’re infested.

“They’re a beast,” said Puckett, who is part of the team at A&M’s Center for Urban and Structural Entomology. “I always tell people we’re going to take care of it, but they’re going to be trouble for a long time.”

Crazy ants — also called the Rasberry crazy ant or tawny crazy ants — like enclosed spaces, have hundreds of queens in a colony and can shut down productions lines by short-circuiting electronics. They can even drive out fire ants, surviving the competition’s stings by detoxifying its venom.

Do we have an effective solution for this crazy ant menace? Yes, we do!

C Tech Corporation offers a non-toxic and non-hazardous product, Termirepel™ to protect the electrical application and cables from these ravenous insects.

It is an environmentally safe product that works by repelling the insects without causing any harm to the target or non-target species. Termirepel™ is available in three forms, solid masterbatch, liquid concentrate and lacquer form.  Termirepel™ masterbatch can be safely incorporated into the PVC insulation of wires and cables while manufacturing or coated on surfaces to keep crazy ants away from the application. Termirepel™ can also be incorporated in agricultural films and mulches for the protection of trees and bushes against these creatures.

Mountain Pine Beetles!

downloadThe mountain pine beetle Dendroctonus ponderosae is a species of bark beetle native to the forests of western North America from Mexico to central British Columbia. It has a hard black exoskeleton and measures approximately 5 mm, about the size of a grain of rice.

The first mountain pine beetle outbreak started in British Columbia in the early 1990s. The insect has since killed about 50% of the total volume of commercial lodgepole pine in the province. Not just limiting itself to lodgepole pine any longer, the beetle is also reproducing in jack pine.

The mountain pine beetle has a one-year life cycle in most of its range but may take more or less time to complete its development, depending on local temperatures. Adult beetles usually disperse in July or August, depending on the region, to colonize new host trees. Females attack first and release semiochemicals called aggregation pheromones that attract more females and males to the tree. Female beetles lay eggs along the sides of vertical galleries that they excavate in the inner bark of the tree. Newly hatched larvae mine away from the egg galleries. Insects usually overwinter as larvae, completing their development the following spring and pupating in June or July.

During gallery construction, fungal symbionts carried by beetles in specialized pockets in one of the mouthparts are introduced to the trees. The fungi colonize the inner bark and sapwood, interrupting tree function and defence in addition to changing the moisture and chemistry of tree tissues in which insects are developing. The fungi sporulate in pupal chambers and new adults feed on the spores before emerging and dispersing to a new host tree.

Trees defend themselves against mountain pine beetle attack with toxic resin. Low or endemic beetle populations cannot overcome the defences of healthy trees and attack suppressed weak or dying trees. Suppressed and weak trees are usually poor-quality hosts for the beetles because they may already have been attacked by competing insects and the thin inner bark layer is a poor habitat.

As populations increase, the mountain pine beetle is able to overwhelm the defence of larger and healthier trees through a rapid, coordinated group or mass attack. Large trees provide better habitat and produce more beetles. This results in positive feedback and rapid population growth. Tree defence may be important in regulating low or endemic populations, but they become inconsequential when beetle populations are high.

Now to identify a pine beetle infestation one must look for the following signs:

Pitch Tubes: Popcorn-shaped globs of sap called pitch tubes will be found in the trunk where the beetle begins tunneling. These indicate the tree has tried to “pitch out” the beetle. A red or brown color in the pitch tube indicates a successful attack by the beetle. The color comes from boring dust on the pitch.  A white color indicates an unsuccessful attack – the tree was able to get rid of the beetle before it began boring.  A tree with only a few white tubes has a chance of survival.  If there are several colored tubes present, the tree should be removed.

Heavy Woodpecker Damage: Evidence of woodpeckers feeding on the trunk may indicate mountain pine beetle infestation in a tree. Signs include patches of bark missing where the woodpecker was feeding and bark flakes on the ground below the tree. Woodpeckers also like to feed on the its beetle.

Foliage Color Change: The foliage of trees that have been fatally infested will change color from green to yellow to red.  This color change starts the following spring after the previous summer’s mountain pine beetle flight.  A tree with red needles is beyond the point of saving.

Boring Dust: Pine beetles produce a boring dust as they successfully enter into the host tree. You may notice this sawdust-like material in bark crevices or on the ground around the base of the tree. If boring dust is present around the entire base of the tree, the tree is beyond the point of saving.

Presence of Live Beetles: One can identify mountain pine beetles throughout their lifecycle by peeling the bark off an infested tree; one can find eggs, larva, pupae and/or adult beetles underneath.

Blue Stain: Pine beetles introduce a fungus as they bore into the tree that stains the sapwood a blue or grey color.

Let us look at some of the recent news pertaining to the damage caused by mountain pine beetles

Mountain Pine Beetles Still Beating the Cold in K-Country
18 December 2016, Canada

It’s supposed to be a long, cold and nasty winter this year if you believe the Farmer’s Almanac.  That’s just what Alberta Forestry officials are hoping.

The battle against Mountain Pine Beetle has been a long one.  Our mild winters over the past few years have allowed the Mountain Pine Beetle population in the province to rise and become harder to manage.

Mountain Pine Beetle is a species of Bark Beetles that unlike the rest of their creepy-crawly family, target healthy trees in our forests and have damaging effects on overall forest health.

California: Why tiny insects are tearing up Sierra forests
December 14 2016, California, USA

Western pine beetles, native inhabitants of Sierra Nevada forests, typically go unnoticed. The grain-of-rice-sized insects live a quiet life, spent mostly beneath the bark of weak, diseased or injured trees.

But the beetles of late have been causing uproar. They have been decimating ponderosa pine trees throughout the central and southern Sierra, turning entire hillsides red — the color the pines turn just before they die. Last month, the U.S. Forest Service reported that there are over 100 million dead trees in the Sierra — more than double the amount in 2015, when the dying trees prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency.

We need an immediate solution for this problem of mountain pine beetle infestation. Do we have any effective and long lasting solution? Yes, we do.

Termirepel ™, an anti-insect additive, a C Tech Corporation product is an ideal solution for the prevention and control of pine beetle infestation.

Termirepel™ is non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, non-hazardous and environment-friendly insect repellent. Termirepel™ works against 500 species of insects.

Termirepel™ is available in form of solid masterbatches, liquid form, and lacquer. The product does not kill the target species; it just repels them. It follows 6 tiered mechanism, which is extremely effective on insects like pine beetles, aphids, ants, termites etc. It does not volatilize and does not degrade the soil. It is RoHS, RoHS2, REACH, ISO, APVMA, NEA compliant and FIFRA exempted. The liquid concentrate and the lacquer can be coated on the fencing, tree guards etc. Also, Termirepel™ masterbatch can be incorporated in agricultural films, mulches, etc. during polymer processing.