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Integrated Pest Management


The National Herbarium of New South Wales conducted a survey of Australian Herbaria to determine the methods of pest management most widely used in herbarium collections. Thirteen replies were received, and the results are presented below.


In the category of ‘Other’, the National Herbarium of Victoria use herbarium cupboards, and the Australian Antarctic Division use closed drawer units for cryptogram collections. Of the smaller collections, Monash University hold 5,000 specimens; the Janet Cosh Herbarium at Wollongong 6,000, and the Pilbara Regional Herbarium 7,500.

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Almost all herbaria reported that they suffered from a variety of pests, with silverfish and psocids (book lice) the most common.


Other methods of pest control include airlocks and door seals; surface spraying; blue-light and other insect traps; regular cleaning and vacuuming; regular inspections.

A number of herbaria don’t fumigate regularly, but do use chemicals to control localised or unusual outbreaks of insects. Two institutions noted that whilst they used to fumigate, they have recently stopped. The chemicals used for fumigation are Pestigas, Permethrin, Methyl Bromide, Deltamethrin and Pyrethrum. The Janet Cosh Herbarium uses a standard insect bomb, and both the National Herbarium of Victoria and the Beadle Herbarium in New England use Cislin as a surface spray. There are conflicting views on the use of Methyl Bromide – some wish they could use it, and others applaud its demise.

Of those six herbaria that use naphthalene, three place it in bags within the herbarium boxes, one sprinkles 1 tablespoon of coarse flakes over the base of each box, and one liberally scatters flakes all over specimens in boxes. The National Herbarium of New South Wales is currently removing naphthalene from its collections using tongs and gloves, with facemasks used during prolonged exposure. All who responded to the question stated that they stored their naphthalene in sealed containers, and most in a separate room.

Handling procedures for chemicals varied according to the type and scale of their use. Large scale fumigation is handled by outside contractors in all cases, small scale (ie. insect bombs, localised outbreaks) by staff at the National Herbarium of Victoria (NHV) and the Janet Cosh Herbarium. Staff at the NHV wear full protective clothing.


*Please note that not everyone completed this section, and that data which was not provided was sourced from the Bureau of Meteorology’s website.

Internal building environments are mostly controlled by air-conditioning, with nine of the thirteen herbaria air-conditioned. Of these, three feel that the air-conditioning and humidity control is inadequate. At the National Herbarium of NSW and the Queensland Herbarium the problem is that collections are not separated from work areas, and therefore must be maintained at a temperature and humidity comfortable for staff. The optimum for pest control would be significantly lower than this. At the National Herbarium of Victoria the problem is that the air-conditioning was originally designed for an open plan area, and as the specimens are now housed in cupboards it is no longer adequate.

Of the five herbaria that are not air-conditioned, two (State Herbarium of South Australia, Janet Cosh Herbarium Wollongong) indicated that they thought they would benefit from it . The others are located in Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney.

Six herbaria stated that they were satisfied with their current systems for pest and environmental control, whilst the common themes amongst the others were that the collections be better separated for unwanted access, temperature and humidity control (including freezing); and that cheaper, more insect specific pesticides be available.

Several comments were made that naphthalene should be phased out of use for health (and staff morale) reasons, and that people were concerned about the long-term effects of pesticides. A number of people observed that freezing in rotation, whilst time-consuming, proved effective in keeping pest numbers down.

For Information

Tim Entwisle: tim.entwisle@rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au (or tim_entwisle@hotmail.com)

Tony Martin, Lucy Nairn & Tim Entwisle
Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney
28 September 2000