Monday, May 2, 2011

The evils that beset mineral collections: 10. Insects and Other Pests

Most mineral specimens are not edible, but things associated with them are: labels, glue, wool batting, etc. Boxes make cozy homes for rodents, who may add their own specimens of scat and crystalline urine. Humid conditions promote mold growth (see Evil #4); humid conditions with sunlight promote plant growth. An untended collection may become an ecosystem. 
  • Insects: The common pests depend on your region. Silverfish nibble on paper, termites eat cellulose-rich material, dermistids (carpet beetles) and moth larvae eat wool. Cockroaches like people food but spread grease where they go.
  • Rodents are more likely to be disruptive than to eat minerals or labels. They can nest in storage boxes, re-arranging their contents. Rats leave grease tracks and pee as they travel. Sometimes rodents bring their own collections into their homes; you may find stashes of food interspersed with your minerals.
  • Birds can nest in rafters over your storage area and leave droppings; they can also carry fleas and ticks.
  • Medium-sized mammals investigating a garage or basement collection include raccoons, skunks, feral cats, etc.Watch out for scratching posts, bad odors, nursery sites, bathroom sites, and rabid behavior. (Not that your minerals will catch rabies, grow fangs, and start foaming at the mouth; but your curator might!)
  • Plants are usually benign, but can grow roots or tendrils into a space where they are not welcome. Your collection does not need a burst sewer pipe in its vicinity. I have a wisteria that attempts to become a house planet every summer, prying open windows and growing meter-long indoor tendrils. Plants (trees) can also fall over onto collection spaces. 

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