What are Silverfish & How Do I Get Rid of Them?

Silverfish feeding on paper

Learn everything you need to know about silverfish, how to identify them, the risks they pose to your home, and what to do about them. Read on to dig in; be smart, prepare yourself, and arm yourself with the tools needed to avoid an infestation in your home sweet home.

What are Silverfish?

Silverfish, known by their scientific name as Lepisma saccharina, are small, wingless insects similar to centipedes and earwigs. These pests like to feast on starchy materials. Silverfish frequent houses and other buildings; while capable of surviving in a diverse range of climates, they are most attracted to dark, damp areas like basements, bathrooms, garages, and kitchens. In their natural habitats, they reside in leaf litter and small crevices like under logs or rocks. 

Silverfish are among the most primitive insects still around. They are believed to have existed on earth since the Paleozoic Era (beginning over 500 million years ago). This ancient insect has been around longer than humans can even conceive of. In our modern world, they are viewed by humans as annoying pests that cause damage to our homes, our health, and our personal belongings. 

How to Identify Them

Silverfish are known as “Bristletails” due to their long, thin appendages at the rear of their body resembling a tail. They are also called silverfish because of their light greyish, shiny color. On average, they measure about half an inch to one inch in length. Their bodies are flat and slender, similar to earwigs’. Silverfish are mostly nocturnal and take advantage of the dark hours to eat, play, and reproduce. They are extremely stealthy and can go scampering around unnoticed for longer than you’d think. 

How To Know If You Have a Silverfish Infestation

Silverfish are nocturnal, and therefore it is unlikely you will spot them in the daylight. They are also fast-moving and hard to catch. While they are sneaky and harder to spot than termites, for example, who are attracted to light sources, there is still a chance you could catch them on the move. Silverfish sightings are more common in the kitchen, bathroom, and in closets. Remember: silverfish prefer dark, moist environments, so they may be hiding in the obscure corners of your home such as the basement, attic, garage, or even in the bookshelf. 

Even if you don’t spot alive silverfish in your home, there are other signs that can give them away. Keep an eye out for droppings; they look like small specs of dust, often mistaken for black pepper. Silverish regularly shed their skin. If you find skin peels resembling shrimp skin around the house, you may have a silverfish invasion. Another sign to watch out for is yellow stains on fabrics or books, as well as holes in clothes, curtains, socks, newspapers, or sofa fabric. If you find one or more of these signs, you may have a silverfish infestation on your hands. 

Why They’re a Cause for Concern

Silverfish can cause many levels of damage in your home. First and foremost, they live off starches. Starches are the main carbohydrate in food and are found in rice, pasta, breads, cereals, beans, and some nuts. Silverfish also eat protein-rich items such as vegetables, fibers, and sugars. They are a cause of concern not only because they will go after your food, but also a slew of other items in your home.  In addition to starches and proteins, silverfish feed on fabrics, glue, paper, book bindings, and textiles. They can destroy cottons, silks, and other fabrics. They tend to eat at the surface, creating a shaved appearance on fabrics, but are not likely to make holes in fabrics.

Silverfish do not present any significant health risks to humans. They do not bite humans or pets, unlike termites and ants, and do not carry any diseases that can be transmitted to human carriers. They also do not suck blood like mosquitoes, for example. However, people with sensitive allergies may develop allergic reactions from exposure to their shed-off skin, occurring in the process called “molting.” Ants and beetles may feed on silverfish. So, while silverfish are not directly harmful to humans, they can attract other pests to your home which might be. Hence, it’s better to take care of the problem head-on as soon as you see silverfish in your house or suspect an infestation. 

Silverfish lay a lot of eggs– and fast. Females can lay up to 60 eggs a day for 4-5 days in a row, usually clustered in two to three groups per day. The eggs are notoriously difficult to spot and can go unnoticed for weeks because they are so small. They are hard to locate; females often lay their eggs in hidden crevices such as bookcases or in piles of clothing or blankets. Either way, silverfish prefer to lay their eggs in warm, humid environments. These conditions make the eggs hatch faster. The eggs are initially soft and white; within a few hours, they toughen and turn yellow. Once the eggs hatch, young silverfish appear white in color. Once they mature, the color changes to a light silver or greyish hue (hence the name, “silverfish”). 

DIY Prevention Methods

  1. Keep your home clean — dust and sweep regularly. Clean up food particles around your home. Clean crumbs out of the microwave and stove top. Wipe pet food off the floor.
  2. Seal food in airtight containers– as mentioned, silverfish feast on starches and proteins. If you don’t take care, they will go after your kitchen where food sources are plentiful. To prevent infestation, seal starches in glass containers and wrap the outside with tape. Store dried food in cupboards. 
  3. Roll up newspaper– dip it in water to moisten the paper. This may attract silverfish to habitat inside the newspaper roll. After a few days, roll up the newspaper and throw it away in an outdoor dumpster or carefully burn it.
  4. Use traps– you can purchase sticky glue traps to try and catch silverfish.
  5. Store clothes and fabrics in a dry environment.

How the Experts Can Help

Let’s say you’ve tried everything, but it’s still not working. Treating a pest infestation is not an easy task and sometimes it’s a challenge that you can’t take on alone. That’s when you should call the experts to do the heavy lifting for you. At the end of the day, contracting professional treatment is the only way to know for sure the infestation will be 100% resolved.

TermiGuard’s highly skilled pest control teams will work with you to identify the problem in a home inspection and consult with you about possible treatment plans. TermiGuard pest control programs can range from one-time treatments to customized scheduled visits that cover up to 50 general pests. Sleep soundly knowing that TermiGuard professionals have designed a unique treatment plan for your situation.