Integrated Pest Management

What is Integrated Pest Management?

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the term used to describe a coordinated approach to pest management that does not rely on chemicals and so moves away from the “spray and pray” approach.

IPM focuses on making the museum environment unattractive to insects and other pests through physical exclusion, good housekeeping and early detection. It relies on knowledge of the pests’ life cycles and habits, good management and monitoring of the museum environment, inside and out.

Chemical methods do have a place in IPM programs, but their use in minimised.

Why not just spray?

Many chemicals used as pesticides in the past have been found to have damaging effects on people and objects.

As knowledge of the risks associated with pesticides and other chemicals has grown, museums have tried to minimise their use to protect their workers and their collections.

Chemicals often do not address the whole problem. For example, using a “Flea Bomb” style of chemical will knock down adult insects in the area, but is not likely to affect insects protected by fittings and furnishings. Eggs are also unlikely to be affected. Therefore you end up having to re-treat the area again and again, as the original source of the problem has not been contained (eg a cat without a flea collar).

Commercial sprays can still be used to quickly treat active infestations, but be aware that they may not be removing the source of the problem. If sprays are used it is important to minimise any contact between the chemical and collection items, as staining and colour change may occur.

Components of IPM

The basic components of an IPM program are as follows:

  • A regular cleaning and housekeeping schedule, to remove food sources and clutter.
  • A regular building maintenance program, to block entry points to the building.
  • Sound storage containers, to prevent insects from gaining access to collection material.
  • A quarantine area for all incoming material.
  • Regular inspection of storage areas and collection material, to check for insect activity.
  • A regular program of trapping insects (using sticky traps), to keep track of resident insect populations.
  • Written records of all IPM activities.
  • Awareness.


Insects are attracted to food sources and general clutter. Keeping your storage and work areas clean can make a huge difference to your pest problems.

  • Keep plants, food, firewood and rubbish out of storage areas, and empty inside bins daily.
  • Keep any kitchen areas clean, and avoid leaving water on benches.
  • Do not leave material on floors, and avoid creating “piles” of rubbish/boxes/junk etc.
  • Keep storage spaces clean.
  • Vacuum rather than dust.

Building maintenance

Keeping your building in good repair prevents insects from gaining access.

  • Maintain and repair leaks, vents and gaps in walls, floors and doors.
  • Place doormats outside external doors and sweep entrances regularly.
  • Place fine screens over vents, drains and windows (if opened).
  • Clean gutters, clear nests from roof spaces and eaves.
  • Do not allow plants to grow up walls; maintain plant-free zone of at least 1 metre around building. Try to avoid having overhanging branches.


Placing collection material in clean, sound storage containers provides another layer of blocking against pests. Avoid packing material too tightly inside boxes and on shelves, as insects and mould favour conditions with low air circulation and/or disturbance.


Check all incoming material for insect infestation, including packaging, before placing in storage – this is one of the most common ways that insect infestations take hold. Have a separate quarantine area for this purpose. If insects are found, seal the affected material inside a clear plastic bag and contact a conservator.


Inspect premises and collection regularly. (Monthly is good, but seasonally is more realistic). Check in, under and behind furniture and objects, as insects are more likely to live in dark, low-traffic areas. Inspect roof spaces, floor spaces and eaves if possible. Use a torch. Record all findings in logbook. Remove any infested objects to quarantine area and place in sealed plastic bag for treatment.


Sticky traps should be laid around walls and near doors, windows and vents. Traps should be placed along the wall, not at right angles to them. Mousetraps should also be placed in this way, in easily accessible locations – avoid using baits and poisons (rodents tend to die in inaccessible areas, causing more pest problems).

  • Aim to have at least 6-8 traps in a medium-sized room, and number each trap and map its location.
  • Check traps regularly (monthly is good, but seasonally is more realistic) and note what insects are found. Also make a record if no insects are found.
  • Mousetraps should be checked daily.
  • Replace traps when more than five insects are present, when trap has lost its stick, or when past use-by date.
  • Keep insect bodies in vials as voucher specimens and for identification.

Written Records

Keep a logbook of all your IPM-related activities, so that you can build up a record. Over years you may start to see seasonal patterns occurring – this can help you plan IPM activities more efficiently.


Anyone working with the collection or in the building can help with an IPM program. Staff and volunteers can keep an eye out for insects and insect damage, as well as building maintenance and cleanliness issues. It can be helpful to have a single person to whom staff can report, and who will coordinate a response to the problem.

Suggested materials for an IPM program

Name of Product Number of units Supplier
Sticky traps (without baits or pheromones) Keep about 20 in stock, in addition to those in use Pest Control Companies or suppliers
Torch (for inspections) 1 Hardware store
Logbook (eg spiral-bound notebook) 1 Stationery store
Insect Identification kit 1 Artlab is currently producing a kit; alternatively purchase an appropriate book
Small plastic containers 10 Medical or labware suppliers; supermarket.
Building map, with traps marked 1 Generate internally
Clear polyethylene plastic bags (large) – oven bags or similar would be fine Keep about 10 in stock Supermarkets