A closer look at the John Moore Museum
Who lives in the attic?
Bat Bats love to live in the attics of houses and other buildings. Attics provide all of their roosting requirements, particularly female bats who need a warm, safe place in which to raise their young. Bats like a nice clean space to roost, so if you have bats in your attic you should be very pleased! If you find bats, please don’t touch them and remember it is illegal to try and remove them. Telephone the 'batline' service on 0845 1300 228 - they will take your details, advise you on what to do, and if necessary arrange for a licensed bat worker to contact you.
Eaves & House Martins
The House Martin (Delichon urbicum), is a migratory member of the swallow family which breeds in Europe, north Africa and Asia; and spends the winter in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical Asia. It feeds on insects which are caught in flight, and is found in both open country and near human habitation, building a nest from mud pellets under eaves or similar locations. We have a small colony at the museum, who return year after year. We love to see them, even though we have to clean the pavement below them on a regular basis.
Lots of mini-beasts live in old buildings. A common one is the woodlouse, a member of the Crustacea family which also includes crabs and lobsters. We have about 35 species of woodlice in Britain, and whilst most are happily living outside, some come indoors during the autumn and winter. They need damp places to survive and if you see quite a few it may mean that there are high levels of moisture due to condensation or dampness. We use a dehumidifier to sort this out. In most cases, however, they just want to get out of the cold.
Mortise & Tenon Joints
Mortise and Tenon joint Simple and strong, the mortise and tenon joint has been used for millennia all over the world to join pieces of wood, usually when the pieces are at an angle close to 90°. Although there are many variations, the basic idea is that the end of one piece (The tenon) is inserted into a hole cut in the other (The mortise). The joint may be glued, pinned, or wedged to lock it in place. Our building is made with many of these joints and you can see a working one if you visit.
Wattle & Daub
Our buildings are mostly made up of a timber frame, the gaps filled with a woven lattice of wooden strips (wattle) which is daubed with a sticky combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw. This technique has been used for thousands of years, so many historic buildings include it in their construction, and it is becoming popular again as a sustainable building technique.
Taxidermy specimens & moths
Moths Lots of bugs like to eat our taxidermy specimens so we take great care to protect them. Taxidermy is made up of skin, fur and feathers, so bugs like to bore holes and graze. Clothes moths larvae are particularly fond of feathers. To see whether we have insects living in a specimen we look for grey powdery ‘frass’ or droppings.
The most common wood boring pest in the UK. The female lays her eggs into cracks in wood or inside old exit holes. After 3 weeks a 1 mm long, creamy white, C-shaped larva hatches. They will then bore through your timber for 3 to 4 years, gradually growing larger. They then come near to the surface to pupate for 8 weeks, then hatch out as adults when you will see a small amount of dust – your first clue! They then begin again.
Death Watch Beetle
The death watch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) is a woodboring beetle.The adult is about 7 mm long, the larva up to 11 mm long. To attract mates, these woodborers create a tapping or ticking sound that can be heard in old building rafters on quiet summer nights. They are therefore associated with quiet, sleepless nights and are named for the vigil (watch) kept beside the dying or dead, and so have been seen as an omen of impending death. As a timber framed building we keep a close watch on this particular pest as it likes hardwoods best, and old ones at that.
In the museum these like to eat fur, feathers and skin. The female lays her eggs near a taxidermy specimen, or in the carpet, and the larvae (known as woolly bears) then munch away doing most of the damage. They leave behind their skins when they become adults. The best way to deal with these pests is to put the specimen in the freezer! carpetbeetle2