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I summoned the collections manager to come see. Once we knew what we were looking for we found them everywhere.
|FYI this is the LEAST gross bug picture in this post. You have been warned.|
Betsy grabbed as many as she could in a sticky trap and went to work trying to get a good microscope shot and identify them. I went to work with a Kleenex, killing as many as I could find. (If this is upsetting to you, you should probably stop reading now. I find my job has made me pretty compassionless toward the sanctity of bug life).
The first microscope pictures looked like this:
If you google "carpet beetle larva" you will see it didn't look good.
All last weekend I was sick with worry about this situation. Carpet beetles would be disaster. I couldn't even blog about it-- it was too raw, to painful to joke about yet. On Monday we started getting responses back from the museum pest management listserv and some entomologists we know. A few agreed that it was probably a carpet beetle. But a few others brought up a new possibility…millipedes.
Apparently at this young stage, carpet beetles and millipedes look awfully similar. But millipedes are not a museum pest. Sometimes when it rains a lot they can flee inside (perhaps through a leak in the wall??) but they aren't interested in fabric. Once in a collections storage space they will either die off or leave of their own initiative.
On Tuesday we decided to take another round of microscope photos. I went and chased down a few of the biggest ones I could find, trying to get them as intact as possible onto the trap. The new round of pictures looked like this:
Millipedes at a similar stage look like this:
The entomologists also suggested taking a leg count. Any more than six and it can't be a beetle. One was flipped over on the trap, and we are pretty sure that that is a whole bunch of little legs sticking up.
Because I am trying to make sense of the fact that my life has taken a turn in which I am genuinely excited about a millipede infestation. Seriously. On Tuesday all I wanted to talk about was millipedes and how I was in a good mood because of millipedes and how it was so exciting that it was millipedes.
MILLIPEDE DANCE PARTY AWWWW YEAAHHH