How to Stop a Possible Silverfish Infestation
A possible silverfish infestation was discovered at 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO, in the first shipment of newly-accessioned records, numbering 1200 cubic feet. These records were received from a military facility located in Florida, and were due to be shelved.
The key to catching this potential infestation was identifying the problem, and quickly contacting the correct people. Five Archives students were preparing the records to be moved into the storage area when they noticed the insects - white, multi-legged bugs that wriggled and moved fast. The students contacted their project lead who contacted representatives of the Archival and Preservation staff to check out the situation. On initial inspection, no insects were observed, but the students were instructed to use sticky tape and baggies for catching a live specimen if they were seen again. 15 minutes later, a live specimen was delivered to Preservation, still wiggling while stuck to the tape. It was identified as a silverfish (specifically Lepisma saccharina), which are known to be fond of items containing starch, such as paper. They damage paper by scraping the surface with their mandibles, leaving irregular-shaped holes. Through on-line research, it was decided the best approach to mitigate a silverfish infestation was to blast freeze these records – silverfish and their eggs prefer warm, moist environments typical of the Florida climates. Recommendations were made to the Preservation Officer and the Director at St. Louis for options on freezing the remaining 2900 cubic feet of records not yet shipped. Given the number of boxes, a government Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) for emergency recovery services was enacted and a task order for blast freezing the boxes was created. This involved a series of emails and telephone calls from all NARA departments involved in order to invoke the contract and select Polygon Group (Illinois), a provider with the means necessary for the blast freezing process. By the end of the next day, the order was placed and the boxes were pulled from the shelves, re-palletized, and shrink-wrapped for shipping. The following morning, the records were loaded on a truck and left St. Louis, at approximately 11 a.m.
The clear and continual communication between all parties was crucial in getting this potential infestation under control quickly. Instead of ignoring the insects, the archival students took the initiative to contact someone who knew the next step to take. As a result, these records will be properly treated, and our building will remain pest free.