Storage of entomology collections in museums
What kind of preservative should be used to treat some new storage cabinets made of eucalyptus wood, that would not harm the insect specimens stored inside them?
The post sparked a discussion about ideal insect storage. Below is a little summary of the factors to consider when planning storage for your entomology collection.
The ideal solution
The ideal solution for insect storage in most situations are metal cabinets, which are robust, relatively cheap, made with a high degree of consistency and can be made air tight (well, almost). This will protect the collection against insect infestations, airborne pollutants and humidity fluctuations (although not temperature fluctuations – cf. Szcepanowska et al. 2013.
Why use wood preservatives?
Usually, the reasons for treating wood with preservatives are either:
- to make it more hard-wearing (in the case of wooden floors), or
- to stop it being attacked by fungi or insects, or
- to prevent it from greying when exposed to UV light.
Most of these issues are problems mainly in outdoor applications of wood, and there are a number of ways of dealing with these: wood can be varnished to make it protect it from physical impacts, stained to protect it from UV light, and pressure-treated or painted with insecticides and fungicides (ranging from highly toxic substances, such as pentachlorophenol, to less hazardous ones, such as borax).
Assuming the entomology store is dry, has a low relative humidity, clean and there is no problem with insect pests – which should all be the case to safeguard the collection, never mind the storage cabinets – there is really no reason why the cabinets need a finish at all. This applies to all woods – whether in a museum or in a domestic situation, wood used indoors should not require any treatment to protect it from fungal or insect infestations, or greying. Coming back to eucalyptus wood in particular: this has a naturally high content of polyphenols, which makes it naturally resistant to mould growth and insect attack, further negating the need to treat it.
There is one exception: if old cabinets are bought from another institution there is a danger that pest insects may be present already, which could introduce them into the new location. It is advisable therefore to check any old cabinets thoroughly before they are installed – better still, before they are transported to the new location. This then gives time to investigate appropriate treatment options, which are not restricted to chemical means; instead, the units may be frozen, heat-treated or treated in a nitrogen chamber. But that is an entirely different subject which shall be discussed in detail elsewhere.
Organic acid emissions
What material to choose for the drawers? Experience has shown that plastic drawers have problems with static electricity charging, which attracts dust. Metal drawers can be heavy and unwieldy. Wooden drawers still appear to be very much the most practical way of storing insects. However, the type of wood used should not emit large amounts of VOCs, and the drawers should have well-fitting lids to keep out pests. If you wanted to use a locally sourced (sustainable and ethical) wood you might have to undertake a little research. Generally, hard woods are better than softwoods (drawers made from softwood can warp with time and often contain large amounts of resin), although many imported tropical woods used in days gone by are now controversial for environmental and social reasons. When researching the potential suitability of different wood types, try tracking down a comparative study of the VOC emissions of different local hardwoods, which would give you an indication of those high emission species to avoid in the construction of drawers.
The UK’s Natural Sciences Collections Association [http://www.natsca.org/] has published some guidance on the construction of insect storage units:
NHCOLL-L is a general purpose electronic forum for those with an interest in the care, management, computerization, conservation and use of natural history collections. Hosted by Yale University, NHCOLL-L is co-sponsored by the Society of the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) and the Association for Systematic Collections (ASC, Natural History Collections Alliance).
Disclaimer: The links in this article are purely examples of potential pest management but by no means an endorsement of particular companies or organisations.
Is winter on its way?
Hello bulb buddies!
I hope you are all having fun recording the weather information. You’re doing a great job so far.
The weather is very chilly this morning (Monday 24th of November). Last night the temperature in Cardiff fell to 0°C and we had our first proper frost of the year. The temperature was as low as -3°C in some parts of England and Wales. Brrr!
But this cold weather is nothing compared to what some parts of America have been experiencing in the past week. In some areas in the northeast of the country the temperature fell to -15°C. Some places also had two metres of snow! Now that is wintry weather.
The good news is that forecasters do not think that the cold and snow are going to come across the Atlantic to the UK. So no snowmen for us just yet.
What does cold weather mean for our bulbs? Lots of plants don’t like the cold and will perish if it gets too cold. This is why lots of gardeners worry about frost, because it can hurt their plants.
But because we planted our bulbs in the ground, they will be just fine. The earth that we covered them with acts like a warm blanket to keep our baby bulbs nice and cosy. Why don’t you make an origami booklet about the life of a bulb, which you can find here?
You should all now be recording the temperature and rainfall each day and don’t forget to record your results at the end of each week on our website.
Keep up the good work!
Your questions, my answers:
Ysgol Y Plas - Every day we tip out the water out but on fridays we tip it out then leave over the weekend and then take the rain fall on monday. So on monday the water measurement is from the weekend as well as that day, from c. Prof P – That’s perfect, keep up the good work!
Keir Hardie Memorial Primary School - On Wednesday we forgot to empty the rainfall catcher so we think this is why the rainfall is so high. Prof P – Don’t worry, even the best scientists make mistakes. If you wanted to be really clever you could use maths to work out Thursday’s rainfall. Take away Wednesday’s rain from Thursday’s to see how much rain fell on Thursday.
Saint Anthony's Primary School - We are enjoying the project so far. It's has been fun planting all the bulbs and we can't wait until they grow. We decorated name tags and put them on plant pots to plant our bulbs in. R and L. I have noticed that even when there has been a big rainfall, there is still very little water in the rain gauge. Prof P – Well done everyone at Saint Anthony’s. Your name tags sound great! Perhaps you could ask your teacher to take a photo and send it to me? If your rain gauge isn’t catching water, make sure that there is nothing near it which could stop the rain from falling into it.
Burscough Bridge Methodist School - Again apologises the data is late due to the damages to the equipment, however it is all back up and working. Prof P – Hello to everyone at Burscough Bridge! Don’t worry about being late, just do the best you can. I’m sorry that your equipment got damaged. If there is anything I can do to help then just let me know.
Tongwynlais Primary School - We are really enjoying measuring the weather! We haven't had to water our plants yet as we've had so much rain! Prof P – Hello Tongwynlais, I’m glad you’re enjoying the project. Not having to water your plants is one of the many reasons it is so good to live in Wales!
Ysgol Talybont - We've looked on your map to check our previous observations but it is just saying no data received. Could you please check and contact us if we are doing something wrong on inputting the information Prof P - Hi Talybont. I think I have solved the problem, it was nothing that you were doing wrong! Try the map again and let me know if you have any further issues.
Ysgol Nant Y Coed - We had lots of fun, there wasn’t that much rainfall. Thank you for choosing our school to do it. Prof P – I’m sure there will be plenty of rainfall for you to record in the next few months! Thank you for taking part Nant Y Coed!
Your Questions, My Answers
Hello bulb buddies!
St. Paul's Primary School:
My name is A and I am 9 years old. It is my job all next week to take the weather measurements for you. I think I will enjoy it as I love being in the garden. Prof P – Hello Aiden and everyone else at St Paul’s. It sounds like you are doing a great job recording the weather. Keep up the good work!
Kilmory Primary School:
unable to record rainfall accurately Thurs 22mm Friday 26mm. Prof P – Hi Kilmory, do you need any help with measuring rainfall? Or was your gauge just knocked over?
St. Brigid's School:
It has been a cold and wet start to our bulb investigation. We have all made labels and they are standing up nicely in their pots in a safe part of the school. We are all looking forward to seeing the final results. Prof P – Well done to everybody at St Brigid’s. I hope you all had lots of fun planting and making labels. I’m looking forward to seeing your results too!
Ysgol Rhys Prichard:
Very windy on Thursday and heavy rain over night Crisp and clear on Bonfire Night. Very windy on Thursday 13th. A tree blew down near school. Prof P – Da iawn Ysgol Rhys Prichard. Great weather reporting. I hope you all had a good Bonfire Night!
Llanharan Primary School:
Is Monday's rainfall a record of all the rain caught on the weekend? Prof P – Hi everyone at Llanharan. This is a really good question. Yes it is, otherwise we would have no record of the rain that falls over the weekend. I can see that you have already done this for last week’s data, so good job!
Rougemont Junior School:
We planted our baby bulbs on the 27th in line with Scotland. Please remember Professor we were on holiday when Wales were planting. What with fireworks and the cold snap of weather we hope they are tucked up safe and warm! Rougemont year 5 and 6. Prof P – Good job Rougemont. I hope you all enjoyed your holiday. I’ll be sure to remember that you started on the 27th. Your bulbs are tucked up in a nice blanket of soil so they don’t need to worry about the cold!
Bickerstaffe CE Primary School:
We will do as many as we can through the week, can't guarantee every day. Readings will all be taken close to 9.00 a.m.
Rain recorded on Tuesday morning will have been the total for Sat, Sun and Monday
Prof P – Hello Bickerstaffe! Don’t worry if you miss a few days, just do as much as you can. If possible it might be better to take the weather measurements in the afternoon so you get a better picture of that day’s conditions. But as long as you record at roughly the same time each day then it doesn’t really matter.
Guardbridge Primary School:
It rained a lot on Friday. Prof P – Hello Guardbridge, well done for watching the weather closely. It rained a lot in Wales on that day too.
Rivington Foundation Primary School:
Friday was a very rainy day! Prof P – Oh dear! I hope you all stayed warm and dry inside.
The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School:
We are really excited at being involved in this project. We have enjoyed clearing the weeds to plant our daffodils and planting all our bulbs. It is fun taking turns to check the rainfall and temperature. Prof P – Hello to everyone at the Blessed Sacrament. It sounds like you all worked very hard planting your bulbs, well done!
Stanford in the Vale Primary School:
A very cold start to the day on Tuesday and Wednesday! Lots and lots of rain Thursday night....bright blue clear sky today! And the sun is shinning. Prof P – Great weather reporting. It’s nice to hear the sun is shining in Oxfordshire!
St. Paul's Primary School:
hi its its been really raining this week. Prof P – Thanks for the weather information! I’m sorry that you’ve had a rainy week, but at least the plants won’t be thirsty!
Glyncollen Primary School:
We are really enjoying taking care of our bulbs and reading the rainfall and temperature measurements.
We are not sure if our thermometer is working properly because it has been giving us high readings and the weather has been colder this week. On Wednesday we put a new thermometer outside and our readings now seem closer to what the weather forecast says. Is it possible for you to send us a new thermometer please? Diolch yn fawr. Blwyddyn 4 Prof P – Da iawn Glyncollen! I’m really glad you’re enjoying the project. You’re right, your temperature readings do seem very high. I’ll send you a new thermometer as soon as possible.
Ysgol Iau Hen Golwyn:
Hi. We are year 4 in Ysgol Hen Golwyn. We like doing the project and we have completed the first week. We like your beard. Some of our pots were knocked over and the rain gauge was tipped over too but everything is going to plan now. Prof P – Hello Year 4! I’m glad you’re enjoying the project. Don’t worry too much about things getting knocked over. Problems like that are part of life as a scientist.
Ysgol Bro Eirwg:
Rydyn ni wedi mwynhau dysgu a chofnodi yr wythnos hon! Prof P – Da iawn pawb!
The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School:
We are taking it in turns to collect the weather data. The weather has been very wet and windy at times. But it is cool to be a scientist, even if you miss a bit of football! H Prof P – Thank you for the weather data! You’re right, it is cool to be a scientist. I hope you didn’t miss too much football!
Coppull Parish Primary School:
My Year 4 children have recorded these by themselves. They could be the other way around. For example I have switched Thursday's temperature number with Thursday's Rainfall number. It didn't seem to be zero degrees celcius that day and the children wrote mm in the temperature boxes. Hmmmmm. mm also cropped up in the temperature on Wed. Marie Codd Science Leader and Forest School Leader. Prof P – Hi Marie. It’s great that the children are recording the data themselves. It is still very early in the project so there are bound to be some mistakes. I’m sure that by the end of the year you will all be experts. Well done everyone!
Kids in Museums Takeover Day 2014
On November 13th Class Hawk from Trelai Primary joined us for Kids in Museums Takeover day. They tested out some new activities and trails that have been developed for the Artes Mundi exhibition. In the afternoon they worked on developing their own ideas for activities. These were presented to Artes Mundi who will be incorporating some of them into new resources for children. The class came up with some excellent ideas for activities that could be done in any gallery space which we wanted to share, you can see them below.
Thanks and a big hand to Class Hawk and Mr.Cole for all your hard work and excellent fun!
CLASS HAWK'S IDEAS
Pick some words that describe the space you are in/the works on display and make a word-cloud from them
Use this to make a rap
Find the names of artists and works and make a word search for them
Describe how the works of art make you feel using pictures
Make masks inspired by the works on display
Have an I Spy game to play in the space where we have to find things on a check list - these could be parts of a work of art or words like the names of artists
We like activities that helps us move slowly through the space and appreciate the work
The Adventures of Arthur the Arthropleura
In June this year the Natural Sciences Department received a rather special donation from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; a life size model of a giant millipede, Arthropleura, that would have lived in the Carboniferous Period, 300 million years ago. Arthropleura is the largest invertebrate (creepy-crawly) ever known to have lived on land, reaching up to 2.6 metres in length, but despite its monstrous proportions it is thought to have been a harmless herbivore.
The model was originally on display in Kew Garden’s Evolution House but when the space was dismantled in preparation for the HLF funded restoration of the Temperate House, it was no longer needed. So it was donated to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, thanks to the generosity of Chris Mills, David Cook and Jonathan Farley at Kew.
The Arthropleura model was in need of some substantial conservation work when it arrived at AC-NMC. It had been on open display for many years in a glass house alongside living plants and was damaged and rusty. The humid display environment had caused the surface paint to flake away and several spiders and snails had taken up residence on the underside of the model!
The first job was to give the model a good wash with hot soapy water and remove the dirt and cobwebs! Then all the flaking paint was scrubbed off, the damaged areas on the legs and head were rebuilt with an epoxy putty and the surface textures recreated. The nuts and bolts of the removable antennae had rusted together, so the metal parts were replaced with new stainless steel threaded rods.
Once the repairs were complete the model was carefully painted with acrylics and then coated in a durable varnish, making it once again suitable for public display.
Some of the Natural Science staff had become rather attached to the impressive 1.5m long millipede model whilst it underwent conservation work in the lab and named it Arthur the Arthropleura! We also decided to have a bit of Halloween fun with Arthur… so he “escaped” and went on the run around the museum galleries! We posted pictures of his adventures on the @CardiffCurator Natural Sciences Twitter account and had a fantastic response from our followers. Arthur the Arthropleura is now a social media star and is a really wonderful addition to our collections!
Hello bulb buddies!
I hope you’re all having fun looking after your bulbs.
Autumn has finally arrived in Cardiff. There is a chill in the air and the leaves on the trees are turning lovely shades of orange, yellow and brown.
Autumn has arrived late this year. October’s weather was warmer and wetter than average and this meant lots of the trees kept their green leaves for longer than usual.
The weather on Halloween was extra-special! Temperatures in some areas of the UK, such as south England and north Wales, reached well over 20°C.
The temperature in Kew Gardens in west London reached a whopping 23.6°C, which is the highest temperature ever recorded in the UK on Halloween. I hope you didn’t get too hot in your spooky costumes!
I think these weird weather conditions are very interesting and am excited to see what strange things you find during your spring bulb experiments.
Has autumn arrived where you live? Are the leaves changing colour and falling from the trees? Why don’t you take an autumnal picture and send it to me in an email? I might even post it here on my blog.
Remember that you should now have started recording the temperature and rainfall on your weather charts. If you can’t remember what you’re supposed to do you can look at the Keeping Weather Records page on my website.
A planting day of bulbous proportions!
Eleven thousand and three hundred bulbs were planted by school scientists across the UK to kick start the Spring Bulbs for Schools investigation. Seven and a half thousand pupils from one hundred and seventy nine schools got planting to investigate climate change.
Here is a map to show you where the bulbs were planted.
Here are some of the pictures they sent in. Follow their progress and the questions they raise as they record the local weather and flowering through the winter and into the spring.
Fire burn and cauldron bubble!
‘From ghoulies and ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night…’
Last Friday, Natural Sciences staff celebrated Halloween in grand style with a host of truly ghoulish and grizzly specimens out in the main hall at National Museum Cardiff. The National Herbarium was transformed into a ghoul filled graveyard, and a large mosquito model leered down from the entomology (insects) stand, any moment threatening to jump on the jugular of an unsuspecting member of the public. Younger visitors to the OPAL stand were encouraged to stealthily walk through a spider’s web without disturbing its occupant, and learn about glow in the dark scorpions. Meanwhile the biggest creepy crawly that ever lived, Arthropleura, a 300 million year old extinct giant millipede, escaped from the Palaeontology (fossil) stand and went off to explore the Impressionist galleries.
Despite all of the fun, visitors gained an insight about some of the 6 million specimens that are held behind the scenes at the museum, and the incredible work of the staff that care for them. From bats to giant squid, volcanic rocks to fungi, we covered them all. One of my favourite parts of the day was taking visitors behind the scenes on tours of the Entomology and Molluscan sections to see insects and shells and the Spirit store (not ghosts, but where we keep our specimens preserved in fluid such as sea worms and crabs). It is such a rewarding experience to see the excitement of people visiting the collections for the first time, and proudly talking about all of the great research work that we do.
If you missed it, don’t worry! We have a whole host of open days and curator led sessions coming up. See our What’s Onto find out more!
Museum scientists pop up at Fairwater Library
Museum scientists were out and about during half-term week, when the I Spy…Nature pop-up museum paid a visit to Fairwater Library on 30th October. Curators from the Botany, Invertebrate Diversity and Palaeontology sections took along specimens from their collection areas to show the public, along with a microscope and quizzes to encourage them to look even closer.
Ingrid Jüttner challenged people to identify as many trees as they could, using beautiful displays of freshly-pressed leaves and fruits. This activity was a big hit with grown-ups, and it was very pleasing to see so many parents and grandparents encouraging children to learn more about these important plants, which bring our living spaces to life.
The library’s meeting room became temporary home to an impressive array of marine and mollusc specimens from the Invertebrate Diversity section. People were fascinated by the creatures on display, which evoked a range of reactions (including ‘they’re really gross!’) depending on how they felt about slugs and worms! Teresa Darbyshire showed some of the diversity of life found around our shores, with beautiful sea shells, lobster, starfish, and a pickled octopus and giant sea worm. Visitors tried their hands at identifying shells using a key, all good training for trips to the beach! Ben Rowson challenged people to identify mystery objects under the microscope, and introduced them to slug identification using his recently published book and life-like models.
Lucy McCobb showed visitors a range of fossils from different periods of the Earth’s history, ranging from an Ice Age mastodon tooth and horse’s leg bone, through Jurassic ammonites and ichthyosaur bones, to trilobites, which are among Wales’s oldest fossils. The ‘what’s in a name?’ quiz was popular with children, and asked them to use the meanings of scientific names to match up the name with the correct fossil.
This was I Spy..Nature's first venture into libraries, and showed that they have great potential as venues for taking the Museum’s collections and experts out into communities.
Top 10 Stocking Fillers
1. Taffywood Mugs
These Taffywood mugs from I Loves the ‘Diff always bring a smile to our faces with their mixture of witty puns and wordplay. They’re a fantastic present for those living in Cardiff as well as a wonderful reminder of the city for those who have moved away.
2. Welsh dinner kitchenware
Bara Brith, Welsh Cakes, Cawl and Laver Bread, this lovely range of homeware from Victoria Eggs gets ours taste buds going. Hand printed and decorated, the tea towel and apron are made from 100% organic cotton and the mug is bone china. Perfect presents for Welsh foodies.
3. Set of 3 mugs
Te, coffi, sicoled – which to choose? These earthenware mugs are great when you need a warming cuppa of any kind. If making a choice is too difficult, buy a set of all three. These mugs are exclusive to Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales.
4. Bird and butterfly necklaces
We love these pretty necklaces from Ladybird Likes. The illustrations are from vintage French nature books which have been applied to wood and laser cut. Ladybird Likes are a small jewellery company based in London founded by self-confessed craft geek Zoe Jade and her charming necklaces and brooches are both delicate and striking.
5. Colour & Carry Satchel Kit
Stand out from the crowd and get creative with this colour and carry satchel. This bag comes with fabric pens so that you can colour it in and craft your own unique bag. Seedling products are new to the UK and their kits are full of inspiring craft ideas to fire up children’s imaginations.
6. Welsh Alphabet Jigsaws
These gorgeous wooden Welsh alphabet jigsaws make learning fun. Brightly coloured and made from sustainable rubber wood, they look great as well as being educational and come in dragon, dinosaur and crocodile designs.
7. Scrabble yn Gymraeg
Scrabble is the most popular word game in the world and is now available in Welsh. This junior version includes two games, a simpler version for younger children on one side and a more challenging game for older children on the other. For more Welsh language games for children, visit our online shop.
8.St Fagans coaster and placemats
These brightly coloured melamine coasters and placemats will bring memories of St Fagans flooding back. We commissioned local artist Wayne Bedgood to come up with the design and we are amazed at how he has squeezed so many buildings in. See if you can spot your favourite. Exclusive to Amgueddfa Cymru- National Museum Wales.
9. 2015 Calendar
The 2015 Amgueddfa Cymru- National Museum Wales calendar contains twelve images that capture the majesty of the mountains of Wales. It includes works by Graham Sutherland, Peter Pendergrast, John Piper and Sir Kyffin Williams. . Exclusive to Amgueddfa Cymru- National Museum Wales.
10. Print on Demand
We love this painting by Pissarro of the Pont Neuf in Paris in the snow. You can own a reproduction of this beautiful work or one of over 250 others through our online print on demand service. From seascapes to castles and from Monet to mountains, browse out print on demand service.
Every purchase supports the work of the Museum.