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Silverfish Bug: What Are They and How To Get Rid of Them?

Hand holding a silverfish bug

The silverfish bug is a small, wingless insect that’s known for its distinctive teardrop shape and silvery scales. They are often found in damp, dark areas of the home such as basements, attics, and bathrooms. These nocturnal creatures are not harmful to humans, but they can cause significant damage to your belongings.

Silverfish bugs are considered pests because they feed on a variety of household items. They have a particular fondness for paper and damp clothing. If left unchecked, they can cause extensive damage to books, wallpaper, and even clothing.

In this article, I’ll go through everything you need to know about silverfish bugs, how to prevent, and get rid of them effectively.

What is a Silver Fish?

Silverfish are small, wingless insects known for their silvery light grey and blue color, combined with a fish-like appearance.

They are nocturnal creatures, typically measuring between half an inch to an inch. With a lifespan of two to eight years, they are among the longest living insects.

Closeup view of a silverfish bug on wood

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Primarily, silverfish inhabit dark, damp spaces like basements, attics, kitchens, and bathrooms. They are especially attracted to paper and damp clothing, and they’re commonly found in stored boxes in garages and sheds.

Silverfish feed on carbohydrates, particularly sugars and starches. Cellulose, shampoos, silk, linen, and dead insects are also part of their diet. Their destructive feeding habits and preference for damp, humid areas lead to them being considered a pest.

The natural predators of silverfish include earwigs, centipedes, and house spiders

While silverfish are mainly a nuisance, they can damage property. They are known to infest stored food, gnaw on books, and stain clothing. Despite these potential problems, silverfish are not directly harmful to humans.

Lifecycle of a Silverfish Bug

Silverfish bugs, scientifically known as Lepisma saccharina, are ancient insects that have existed for over three hundred million years. The lifecycle of a silverfish bug is intriguing and can span from two to eight years.

Silverfish undergo a three-stage life cycle known as incomplete metamorphosis. It begins with the egg stage, where a female silverfish can lay up to twenty eggs daily, usually in warm, humid, and hidden areas. These eggs are elliptical and whitish, often difficult to spot.

After two weeks to two months, the eggs hatch into nymphs. These nymphs resemble adult silverfish but are smaller and white. They molt numerous times, each time growing larger, and gradually acquire the silver coloration as they mature into adults.

Young silverfish bug on white background

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Adult silverfish are known for their destructive feeding habits. They feed on carbohydrates, particularly sugars and starches. Items high in protein, such as meats and dead insects, also form part of their diet.

What Do Silverfish Bugs Look Like?

Silverfish bugs can be quite distressing to encounter. These nocturnal insects have a distinct appearance that sets them apart from other pests.

They’re typically a silvery light grey or blue color, which is where their name originates from. They have long, slender bodies that taper towards the end, giving them a fish-like appearance.

Macro of a head of a gray silverfish

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These bugs can range in size from half an inch to one inch in length. One of the most noticeable features of silverfish is their three long bristle-like appendages that protrude from the rear end of their bodies. Their bodies are covered in scales that shimmer, enhancing their fish-like appearance.

Silverfish have two long antennae on their heads and small, compound eyes. Unlike most insects, they do not have wings, but they are fast runners. The sight of these scaly, quick-moving bugs can be quite startling, especially when discovered in your home.

What Attracts Silverfish To My House?

Silverfish are attracted to damp, dark, and warm environments. Their preference for high humidity levels often leads them to inhabit bathrooms, basements, and kitchens.

They are nocturnal creatures and are particularly drawn to areas with poor ventilation where they can hide during the day.

But what really attracts silverfish to your house? These pests are ‘starchivores’, meaning they feed on substances that contain polysaccharides, such as starches and dextrin in adhesives.

Silverfish bug feeding on breadcrumbs

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This includes book bindings, carpet, clothing, coffee, dandruff, glue, hair, some paints, paper, photos, plaster, and sugar. They also feed on mold and fungi.

Plus, silverfish are attracted to old buildings that have a lot of crevices and cracks, as these provide the perfect hiding spots. They can easily slip through these openings and infest your home.

So, if your home provides a damp, warm environment with plenty of food sources and hiding places, it’s likely to attract silverfish.

Are Silverfish A Sign Of A Dirty House?

Contrary to popular belief, silverfish are not necessarily a sign of a dirty house. They are moisture-loving pests that can be found in homes that have damp, humid environments.

Although they are more likely to be found in cluttered areas, it’s not because of filth, but rather because such areas provide more hiding spots and paper materials to feed on.

However, a silverfish infestation can indicate that your home has moisture issues that need to be addressed.

So, while a silverfish sighting does not mean your house is dirty, it does suggest that you might want to look into reducing moisture and clutter in your home.

Are Silverfish Dangerous To People And Pets?

Silverfish, despite their alien-like appearance, are not directly harmful to either humans or pets. They do not sting, bite, or spread diseases.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re entirely harmless. Silverfish infestations can lead to significant damage to your property. So, while they aren’t dangerous in the traditional sense, their feeding habits can cause considerable nuisance and financial loss.

Hand holding a silverfish bug

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Plus, as stated above, the presence of silverfish often indicates a larger issue, such as high humidity or moisture problems in your home, which can lead to other damaging pests or mold growth.

But it’s worth noting that they do have the potential to spread germs if they come inside your house from the outside, and they can also contaminate food.

In terms of pets, silverfish are generally not a threat. However, if ingested in large quantities, they could potentially cause digestive issues. Therefore, it’s best to keep your pets away from them.

Are Silverfish Harmful To Property?

While silverfish are not known to cause harm to humans or pets, they can cause considerable damage to your possessions.

They feed on items rich in starch, cellulose, and protein. This includes books, wallpapers, clothing, and even pantry items.

Silverfish bug damage on a documents

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Over time, a silverfish infestation can lead to the destruction of valuable documents, cherished photographs, and vintage clothes.

Moreover, their love for damp and humid environments often leads them to inhabit areas like basements, kitchens, and bathrooms. Here, they can cause damage by chewing through caulking and grout, which can lead to costly repairs.

Where Can You Find Silverfish?

Silverfish are nocturnal pests that thrive in dark, damp environments. So, where can you find silverfish?

These pests are most commonly found in areas of your home that provide them with their ideal living conditions. This includes basements, attics, kitchens, and bathrooms.

Silverfish adore the damp, so any area in your home that has high humidity levels is a potential silverfish hotspot. They love to hide in cracks and crevices during the day and come out at night to feed on various items.

Silverfish habitat

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These pests are also attracted to paper and damp clothing. Often, they can be found in bookshelves, storage boxes, and laundry rooms.

Unfortunately, their diet means they can cause significant damage to your belongings, including books, wallpaper, and clothing.

Signs of a Silverfish Infestation

Silverfish infestations can be a nuisance, damaging paper goods and staining clothing. Identifying these pests early can save you from significant damage. Here are some telltale signs of a silverfish infestation.

  • Damage to Possessions: notice any unusual damage to your books, wallpapers, or clothing. Silverfish are nocturnal insects that prefer a diet of carbohydrates and proteins. They especially like glue, paper, sugar, and textiles. If you find irregular-shaped holes in these items or notice yellowish stains, it’s a strong indication of their presence.
  • Droppings: Silverfish droppings are another sign. They are small, spherical, and resemble black pepper. Finding these in your cupboards or around your books can be a clear signal of an infestation.
Feeding marks of Silverfish bug

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  • Feeding Marks: Keep an eye out for feeding marks, which can be irregular and take the form of holes, notches along an edge, or surface etchings. Infested materials may also have yellow stains, scales, and/or feces (tiny black pepper-like pellets).
  • Exoskeletons Around the House: Silverfish shed their skin throughout their life. If you find tiny, clear exoskeletons in dark, damp areas of your home, it’s a sign of silverfish activity.

How To Prevent Silverfish

Preventing silverfish starts with reducing their favorite habitats. Keep your home, especially basements, attics, and bathrooms, well-ventilated and dry.

Dehumidifiers can be a great help in maintaining low humidity levels. Regularly vacuum and clean these areas to remove potential food sources and egg clusters.

Next, seal any cracks or crevices in walls, floors, and around pipes where silverfish can enter or hide. Store food, particularly starches and sugars, in airtight containers as these are attractive to silverfish. Since they love to make unsealed oat, pasta, grains, and cereal packets their home, you’ll want to get rid of those as well.

Sealing cracks on the ceiling

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Plus, consider the use of natural deterrents such as cedar shavings or essential oils like lavender, cinnamon, or citrus. These can repel silverfish and add a pleasant aroma to your home.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure, but if you already have an infestation, read the next section to learn what you can do about it:

How To Get Rid Of Silverfish

Here are a few tips to help you get rid of these unwelcome guests.

Firstly, reduce their food source. Silverfish feed on carbohydrates, particularly sugars and starches. They are attracted to paper, glue, clothing, and even some foods in your pantry. Regularly vacuuming and cleaning your home can help to eliminate these food sources.

Next, control the humidity in your home. Silverfish thrive in damp environments, so using a dehumidifier can make your home less inviting to them.

Woman changing water on the dehumidifier

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Silverfish also like to feed on dust and debris, so thoroughly clean the space where you spotted them.

Lastly, consider using insecticides or traps. There are many commercially available products specifically designed to kill silverfish. However, it’s essential to use these products carefully to avoid harm to other animals or children in your home.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure. Regular cleaning and maintenance of your home can go a long way in keeping silverfish at bay.

Natural Methods To Get Rid Of Silverfish

Silverfish are nocturnal insects that thrive in damp, dark areas of your home. While they are not harmful to humans, their presence can be quite unsettling. Luckily, there are natural methods to get rid of silverfish.

DIY Traps

While professional pest control services are available, there are also simple and effective DIY traps you can make at home to get rid of silverfish.

One popular method involves using a glass jar. Coat the inside with a sticky substance, like tape or petroleum jelly, then place a piece of bread or starch-based bait at the bottom.

The silverfish will climb into the jar, attracted by the bait, but won’t be able to climb out due to the slippery surface.

Borax

If you’re tired of sharing your home with these annoying creatures, consider using borax, a powerful, yet inexpensive pest control solution. Borax, a natural mineral compound, is deadly to silverfish but safe for humans and pets when used properly.

Borax in a petri dish and in container

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To use borax for silverfish control, simply mix it with a food attractant like flour or sugar and place it in areas where you’ve seen silverfish activity. The silverfish will be attracted to the food and consume the borax mixture, which will eventually kill them.

However, remember to keep the borax bait out of reach of children and pets. While borax is safe in small amounts, it can be harmful if ingested in large quantities.

This method is not only effective but also eco-friendly and cost-efficient.

Diatomaceous Earth

One of the most effective is the use of diatomaceous earth, a non-toxic powder that dehydrates and kills these pests. Simply sprinkle it in areas where you often spot them.

By absorbing the fats and oils from the exoskeleton cuticle, diatomaceous earth damages insects, causing them to dehydrate and die. The abrasive nature of its sharp edges accelerates the process.

Diatomaceous earth in glass container with a wooden spoon

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Dried Bay Leaves

Bay leaves are a popular and effective home remedy for silverfish. The strong, aromatic scent of these leaves is unappealing to these pests, deterring them from the areas where the leaves are placed.

To use this method, simply scatter dried bay leaves in areas where you’ve noticed silverfish activity.

Dried bay leaves in a wooden bowl on white background

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This includes dark, damp areas such as basements, attics, and underneath sinks. Regularly replace the leaves to maintain their potency. Remember, while bay leaves can help deter silverfish, they won’t eliminate an infestation completely.

For serious infestations, professional pest control services may be necessary. However, the use of dried bay leaves is an excellent first step in managing a silverfish problem.

Cedar Oil

Cedar Oil, extracted from the bark of cedar trees, is a potent insecticide that’s safe for humans and pets. It works by dehydrating the silverfish and disrupting their body’s pheromones, which they use for navigation and mating. This disorientation ultimately leads to their demise.

To use cedar oil against silverfish, mix a few drops with water in a spray bottle. Spray this solution in areas where you’ve noticed silverfish activity, like bookshelves, wardrobes, and basements. Repeat this process every few days until you see a significant reduction in their presence.

Cedar oil in bottle and pine nuts on a white plate

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Sticky Traps

Sticky traps are a non-toxic and cost-effective solution for silverfish infestations. They are easy to use and can be placed in areas where silverfish are frequently found, such as in basements, bathrooms, kitchens, and attics.

The sticky substance on the traps attracts the silverfish, which then get stuck when they crawl over it.

Sticky trap with insects

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Regularly check and replace the traps to ensure their effectiveness. It’s also essential to identify and eliminate the sources of moisture in your home, as this can reduce their breeding grounds.

Wet Newspaper

Silverfish love munching on household items such as books, wallpaper, and clothing. And their love for starch and cellulose makes newspaper an excellent tool for silverfish control.

To use this method, start by rolling up a newspaper tightly and securing it with a string or elastic band. Moisten it slightly to create an environment that silverfish find irresistible.

Place these newspaper rolls in areas where you’ve noticed silverfish activity, such as in your bathroom, basement, or attic. Leave them overnight.

Silverfish will crawl into the newspaper, attracted by the dampness and the cellulose content. In the morning, carefully pick up the newspaper rolls without disturbing the silverfish inside and dispose of them in an outdoor trash bin.

Repeat this process until you no longer see silverfish in your home.

Conventional Methods To Get Rid Of Silverfish

Silverfish are small, silver-grey pests that are known for their destructive feeding habits. They can be quite a nuisance, damaging books, wallpapers, and clothing. Fortunately, there are several conventional methods to get rid of silverfish effectively.

Chemical Traps

Chemical traps are a type of pest control that uses toxic substances to lure and kill pests. When it comes to silverfish, these traps often contain attractants like food or moisture, combined with a potent insecticide. The silverfish are drawn to the trap, consume the poison, and die.

It’s important to place these traps in areas where you’ve noticed silverfish activity, such as in your bathroom, basement, or kitchen. Be sure to keep them out of reach of children and pets, as the chemicals can be harmful if ingested or touched.

Remember, while chemical traps can be effective, they should be used as part of a comprehensive pest control plan. Always consult with a pest control professional to ensure you’re using the right methods for your specific situation.

Insecticides

Hand using insecticide spray

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Insecticides come in various forms, including sprays, dust, and baits. The choice of insecticide depends on the severity of the infestation and the area to be treated.

For instance, sprays are ideal for treating large areas, while dust and baits are perfect for cracks and crevices where these pests hide.

Before using any insecticide, ensure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. It’s also advisable to wear protective clothing and ensure proper ventilation to avoid inhaling the chemicals.

Remember, while insecticides can effectively kill silverfish, they may not entirely eradicate the eggs.

Therefore, you may need to repeat the treatment after a few weeks to ensure complete elimination. Always consider seeking professional help if the infestation persists.

 

Other Pest Guides from Planet Natural:

What Kills Bed Bugs Instantly? (The Complete Guide for 2023)

Oriental Cockroach –  Identify, Prevent, and Get Rid of Them

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