Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has been defined as 'a sustainable approach to managing pests by combining biological, cultural, physical and chemical tools in a way that minimises economic, health and environmental risks.'
The concept of IPM was first developed for agricultural applications with an overall aim to reduce the pesticide load in the environment. As conservators and other museum professionals, however, became aware of the low efficacy of many of the standard pest extermination methods commonly used in museums, along with the range of risks these measures posed to personnel and collections, they looked to IPM measures. The concept has been adapted and is now widely advocated and applied in museums throughout the world. Throughout the rest of this topic, when we refer to IPM we will be referring specifically to those measures recommended for museums. The broader IPM principals, however, also apply.
An IPM program aims to reduce the occurrence of pests and the damage they cause to collections with a minimum use of chemicals. There are several components of an IPM program that can be usefully incorporated into your standard operating procedures. They include:
In addition to these standard operating procedures, IPM relies on an effective monitoring program, in which your collections, storage and display areas are regularly and closely inspected for signs of pests. To be effective, the monitoring program should be formally established, and responsibility for its implementation given to a specific member(s) of staff or committee. This person can be referred to as the IPM Officer.
A diagram of the layout of your building, display and storage is a useful aid in accurately recording the incidence and type of species detected. The results and trends can then be monitored over the seasons. After a while you will begin to become very familiar with your collection areas. You will be able to notice seasonal variations as well as areas that need improved cleaning. For example, in spring the incidence of flying insects increases. Although many of these will not pose a direct threat to your collections, their presence in the museum should alert you to the need to inspect your building for gaps or even small cracks, and other means by which the insects may gain entry. If they are found in the collection store, this would suggest that the doors, and windows if present, may need to have improved edge seals. The presence of dead insects should not be ignored. They should be cleaned away promptly as the bodies provide an attractive food source for other pests.
An IPM program aims to reduce the occurrence of pests and the damage they cause within collections. An IPM program relies on a knowledge of pests and their habits to make the environment undesirable or hostile for them.
Below is a summary of Integrated Pest Management Principles.
Make the environment undesirable to pests by:
- physical exclusion;
Monitor the area:
- inspect the area regularly;
If a pest infestation is found, implement non-chemical methods first:
- inspect and remove all infested/suspect material;
Treatment of infested material:
- bag and seal material to contain infestations until the situation is controlled;
Consult a conservator for specific advice.