We recently published a blog on the Art of Pest Control, and I posed the question some time ago as to whether pest control is science or an art. But what about when pests do actual damage to the cherished artwork hanging on your walls at home? When watching Antiques Roadshow in the past, I can’t say I have ever heard the expert mention home pest control requirements when discussing a damaged painting and how much it could have been worth if only beetles hadn’t attacked the frame, etc.
But what should you look out for?
- Wood – Evidence of boreholes or “frass”/sawdust which indicate an infestation
- Textiles – Small holes or areas where the material is wearing thin
- Paintings – Small surface holes, rear smears/marks or exit holes
- Paper – Holes or tattered edges where the paint or colour appear to have been erased
These symptoms could be a sign of all kinds of pests feasting on your artwork, e.g. beetles drilling into your picture frames, moths chewing on delicate materials, silverfish moving across pages, flies droppings from when they are trapped in spiderwebs, rodents nibbling frames, carpet beetles chewing their way through rugs/carpets. Although to be honest, if you have got these problems with your artwork, the chances are you might also have a larger pest problem at home too.
Pests generally need warm, humid or dank conditions to survive and reproduce in the home. Therefore you should try to keep artwork in a cooler ambient temperature, not in a damp basement or cellar and away from direct sunlight to avoid fading. Where possible, allow air to circulate around it and do some spring cleaning when possible, taking the opportunity to check the front and back of each piece. Museums, art galleries or sites with larger collections of valuable artwork will have an Integrated Pest Management programme in place to avoid such problems, but a treatment known as Controlled Atmosphere Technology CAT can manage/resolve any pest infestations.
If you do spot some damage on a piece of artwork at home, seal in plastic until you are able to get it repaired/restored professionally to avoid spreading the contamination. Personally, I know I’d be so upset if any of the family portraits got munched by pests. Actually, I think I will take my own advice and check all the pictures this weekend, you know, just to make sure.