Museum bids to beat the beetles

More than 1,000 specimens in Norwich Castle Museum's natural history collection are to be placed in a giant freezer because they are infested with the larvae of carpet beetles.

More than 1,000 specimens in Norwich Castle Museum's natural history collection are to be placed in a giant freezer because they are infested with the larvae of carpet beetles.

Within the next two weeks a large walk-in freezer, which has cost thousands of pounds, will be installed in the bird gallery so specimens can be frozen to kill the bugs, which are also known as woolly bears and grow up to 5mm.

Museum bosses said the mammal collection has also been invaded by the pests and the freezer will be used to tackle the stuffed animals riddled with the larvae.

The specimens, ranging from small birds up to a lion and a polar bear, will be wrapped in plastic bags and placed in the freezer for days, until the bugs are dead.

The public will be invited to take a look at the conservation work and museum staff hope to use some money from the Renaissance in the Regions scheme to refurbish some of the bird gallery cases.

An application has also been made to the Department for Culture Media and Sport/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund to redisplay the foreign mammal gallery and make modest improvements to the Ted Ellis Gallery and British mammal cases.

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Rachel Kirk, Norwich museums manager, said: "We have got some bugs in the mammals and the birds and the only way to kill them off is to freeze them. With a lion it is a bit tricky to do that, so you need a large freezer."

She said 500 items from the museum service's social history collections would also be placed in the freezer.

"We thought it would be easier if we put a freezer in the gallery. Then we can also tell people what we are doing and we hope to be able to show them what is going on.

"These bugs are known as 'woolly bears' and are tiny little beetles. They just eat any organic material they can. It is very common in museums but it is a nuisance.

Richard Brigham, from Lyng, a taxidermist since the 1970s, said carpet beetles were a common problem in preserved animals.

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