Thread subject: :: Naphthalene good or bad?

Posted by zcuc on 17-05-2009 13:58

Many collectors use naphthalene to protect there collection but tofay we know that it could present some health hazards to humans.
How do you protect you boxs, do you use any chemicals or just keeping the eye on it?

Posted by ChrisR on 17-05-2009 21:21

A lot of my boxes are old so still have some smell of napthalene (or similar chemicals) but in the recent past I have used little Vapona blocks ... and now I try not to use anything and I do what museums do and freeze the boxes/drawers regularly. I just put the box in a plastic bag, remove as much air as I can and then leave it in a freezer for at least 2 weeks :)

You get different opinions about napthalene - some say the problems are exaggerated and of course there are a lot of people who have worked in museums with no problems (and any that did get cancers might have other factors like smoking that would have a greater cause). At the Hope collection they used a detector on 1 guy and he did a day's work looking into drawers etc and it registered 7 units ... when something like 50 units is the government recommended maximum for adults. But another entomologist told me that it is an accumulative poison so a few exposures isn't a problem but if you worked with it every day then it might be an issue.

For me I prefer to work without chemicals - if for no other reason than I don't want me, my clothes and my whole house to smell of moth-balls ;)

Edited by ChrisR on 17-05-2009 21:23

Posted by Andy Chick on 27-05-2009 08:59

A Chemist i brought some storage off recently said that for the domestic user its not too much of a problem, but when you look at a museum like the british natural history museum, which is several hunderd times the size of the average domestic collection (at least) with a moth ball or two in each drawer you have a lot of exposure, that said, even a modest collection gives off quite a smell, i've noticed a distict lack of carpet beetles in the room i house my collection!

Posted by zcuc on 02-06-2009 09:00


Very interesting. but putting the whole box in the freezer for two month is not easy. I'm trying to imagine what my wife will say if I'll suggest such idea, probably will find myself outside the house freezing for two month or so :)
Also I was wondering how often do you freeze them? I'm guessing that any intruder pest could raise a new generation within couple of weeks so even if you leave the boxes outside the freezer for few month it still has a potential for catastrophe?

P.S I also heaed that too much naphthalene can cause moist drops on the specimens although I'm not sure the drops I see on mine are caused by it.

Posted by conopid on 02-06-2009 10:15

Rentokil produce a moth killer strip - impregnated with an odourless chemical. It claims to kill clothes moth eggs and larvae, so presumably would kill other pests? I cut up strips and put them in my cupboard which houses my boxes of insects. Each strip lasts six months. I have only been using this for six months, so I am not certain yet about its effect on pests, but so far no problems have occurred.

Posted by Steve Pelikan on 03-06-2009 01:25

These are questions I've been thinking about recently so I hope more people contribute to this thread.

In the past, like Chris R, I have used Vapona, but I've given up on that basically because of potential health concerns. Plus museums I pass on material to do object to it. And it can accumulate as gunk on specimens, especially in warmer seasons, I suspect.

Now I have a cycle in which about once a month I put a different drawer in the freezer for a week or 10 days.

Since most collecting/ specimen prep happens for me in spurts (vacation time, weekends) I save up several days worth and freeze the lot after labeling and preliminary (family/genus) ID, for before distributing the specimens in more permanent places.

I have been wondering about periodic/occasional fumigation with something relatively innocuous like ethyl acetate. This might have adverse effects on box lining and plastics used in double mounts (or nylon heads of pins). I haven't done tests yet. Does anyone have information/opinions/ suggestions about this possibility?