mi-museum-bug

Marilyn Bellows, interpretor and conservation assistant at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum,works to debug one of their displays. (CBC)

The Royal Saskatchewan Museum is battling an insect that likes to feast on stuffed animals in the natural history museum's collection.

The insect behind the problem is the everyday carpet beetle and its appetite for museum artifacts is well known to curators.

The Regina-based museum has temporarily closed one display so it can to tend to the bugs.

"They love to get on the dead animals and the specimens and destroy them," Ray Poulin, chief curator of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, told CBC News. "We found some of these animals had a good number of these beetles on them, so we had to remove them all."

Larvae of the beetle feed on almost any natural material including hides, feathers and cloth.

Museums around the world have learned to keep a watch for the insect and avoid infestations.

Poulin, who is not related to the pest control company that has the same name, said that prior to about the 1940s, museums used dangerous chemicals to prevent infestations.

"When they prepared the specimen, they'd prepare it with arsenic, as a way to prevent the beetles from actually wanting to infest that," he said. "So there are chemical ways, but we've come a long way where we try to use non-chemical approaches."

Staff at the museum are removing the pests through an intensive process of bagging, freezing and intricate grooming.