Silverfish are small, wingless insects with a distinct fish-like appearance. Although they are not dangerous to humans, these pests can be an unwelcome sight in your home as they invade pantries, bookshelves, and other areas where they find food sources. While dealing with a silverfish infestation can be annoying, understanding their characteristics and habits can help you take effective action to remove them from your space.
One method to get rid of silverfish is through trapping. A popular DIY trap consists of using a glass jar wrapped in masking tape with bait, such as a piece of bread or raw flour, placed inside. The tape allows the silverfish to climb in, but the smooth surface of the jar prevents them from escaping. Another approach involves sticky traps, which can be made by mixing flour and water into a paste with or without boric acid, applied to an index card or piece of cardboard to attract and catch the pests (source).
Managing moisture in your home is a crucial step in controlling silverfish populations. These insects thrive in humid environments, so fixing water leaks, using proper ventilation, and maintaining good sanitation can significantly reduce their presence. Remember that a proactive approach to prevention and control will keep your home free of silverfish and protect your belongings from damage.
Silverfish are small insects with a distinctly fish-like appearance. They are silver or pearl-gray in color and have a body covered in tiny glistening scales. These insects are also wingless and typically measure around 0.85 cm (0.33 in) in length, sporting two long antennae.
- Silverfish: silver or pearl-gray color, shiny scales
- Firebrat: mottled gray or brown color, shiny scales
Both silverfish and firebrats are members of the order Zygentoma and are commonly referred to as bristletails. They have three long, thin, tail-like appendages at the end of their abdomen, which further contributes to their distinctive appearance.
|Silver or pearl-gray
|Mottled gray or brown
|About 0.33 in (0.85 cm)
|About 0.5 in (12.5 mm) or less
|3 at the end of abdomen
|3 at the end of abdomen
In general, silverfish and firebrats share many characteristics, with their color being the primary difference. Understanding their appearance and characteristics can help you identify these insects and take appropriate measures to get rid of them in your home.
Causes of Silverfish Infestation
Silverfish are small, wingless insects that typically thrive in environments with the following characteristics:
- High levels of humidity and moisture
- Limited light exposure (i.e. dark places)
- Presence of cracks or crevices for hiding
For example, a basement that is damp and poorly lit can be a prime habitat for silverfish infestations.
Effective Silverfish Prevention Techniques
Controlling Home Environment
- Maintain low humidity levels: Use a dehumidifier to keep the humidity below 50%. Silverfish thrive in humid environments, so reducing moisture will make your home less inviting.
- Good ventilation: Ensure proper airflow in basements, attics, and closets to prevent dampness. Open windows when possible.
Proper Food Storage
- Airtight containers: Store pantry items such as flour, sugar, and cereals in sealed containers. This prevents silverfish from accessing their food sources.
- Clean up spills: Immediately clean up any food spills, as these can attract silverfish.
Sealing Cracks and Crevices
- Fill gaps: Seal cracks and crevices, especially near baseboards, windows, and pipes. This prevents silverfish from entering your home and finding hiding spots.
- Inspect furniture and carpets: Regularly check for signs of silverfish in your carpets, furniture, and closets.
|Home Maintenance Task
|Silverfish Attractants Reduction
|Use a dehumidifier
|Ensure proper ventilation
|Store food in airtight containers
|Seal cracks and crevices
By implementing these prevention techniques, you can effectively reduce the likelihood of a silverfish infestation in your home. Remember to maintain a clean and dry environment, properly store food items, and seal any potential entry points to keep these pests at bay.
Home Remedies for Silverfish Control
- Diatomaceous Earth: A natural, non-toxic powder that can be sprinkled around areas where silverfish are present. It works by damaging their exoskeleton, causing them to dehydrate and die.
- Cedar Oil: A natural, essential oil known to be effective in repelling silverfish. Simply spray in infested areas or use a cotton ball soaked in cedar oil to wipe down surfaces.
- Essential Oils: Some other essential oils, such as cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaves, can also be used as natural repellents. Place a few drops on a cotton ball and place them in areas where silverfish are commonly found.
- Sticky Trap: Create a simple sticky trap by using double-sided tape or a layer of glue on a piece of cardboard. Place the trap in areas where silverfish have been spotted. They will get stuck on the adhesive surface and can be easily disposed of.
- Pyrethrin: This natural insecticide can be mixed with water and sprayed onto surfaces where silverfish are found. When they come in contact with pyrethrin, it will kill them. However, use this method with caution, as pyrethrin can be toxic to humans and pets in large amounts.
|Non-toxic, effective, easy to apply
|May need frequent reapplication
|Natural, effective, pleasant scent
|May not be suitable for those with allergies
|Non-toxic, variety of options
|May require frequent application
|Easy to make and dispose of, inexpensive
|May not catch all silverfish
|Effective, natural insecticide
|Potentially toxic to humans and pets
Remember to keep the area clean and free from potential hiding spots for silverfish, such as stacks of paper or cardboard. Regularly airing out moist or humid areas, such as basements, with a dehumidifier can also help to prevent silverfish infestations.
Using Chemical Solutions
One popular method is using commercial insecticides. They often contain chemicals such as propoxur, which can be effective in eliminating silverfish. However, keep in mind that these insecticides can also be toxic to humans and pets.
Some features of commercial insecticides are:
- Effective in eliminating silverfish
- Can be toxic to humans and pets
- Broad-spectrum application
Alternatively, you can opt for targeted treatments like applying boric acid. This inorganic dust can be applied directly to the cracks and crevices where silverfish thrive, reducing their population significantly.
Benefits of using boric acid:
- Less toxic compared to commercial insecticides
- Highly effective when applied to the right locations
Here is a comparison table:
|Targeted (Boric Acid)
Note that both commercial insecticides and targeted treatments provide high effectiveness in eliminating silverfish. However, the toxicity and coverage differ, with commercial insecticides being more toxic and having broader coverage, while boric acid is less toxic and targets specific locations.
Cleaning and Decluttering Tips
Vacuum your living spaces frequently. Focus on:
- Floors and carpets
- Shelves and crevices
Removing Potential Hiding Spots
Eliminate clutter in your home:
- Avoid piles of paper, books, and cardboard
- Organize closets, pantries, and basements
This removes potential hiding spots for silverfish, discouraging their presence.
|Removes dust and eggs
|May miss some hiding spots
|Discourages silverfish habitat
|Requires time and effort for cleaning
By following these simple steps, you can create an inhospitable environment for silverfish and reduce the likelihood of an infestation in your living spaces.
Professional Help and Pest Management
When to Call an Exterminator
Silverfish are common household pests that can be found in damp, dark areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens. They can cause damage to your belongings by leaving stains and consuming valuable items. It is time to call an exterminator when:
- You’ve tried DIY traps and treatments with no success
- The infestation is widespread and causing significant damage
- Silverfish are frequently sighted despite attempts to get rid of them
Ongoing Prevention Strategies
An integrated pest management (IPM) approach is recommended for controlling pests like silverfish. Some key components of IPM are:
- Regular inspection and monitoring to detect pests early
- Keeping your home dry and well-ventilated to discourage silverfish habitation
- Storing items in sealed containers
- Vacuuming and cleaning all possible hiding spots
Comparison Table: DIY Traps vs. Exterminator Services
|Affordable and easy to set up
|Professional expertise and thorough treatment
|Long-term solution and ongoing support
|High success rate in exterminating pests
Pros of DIY traps:
- Non-toxic and chemical-free
Cons of DIY traps:
- May not be effective for large infestations
- Requires regular monitoring and maintenance
Pros of hiring an exterminator:
- Customized treatment plan based on your specific pest problem
- Skilled in safe handling of chemicals and proper pest management methods
Cons of hiring an exterminator:
- May be more expensive than DIY methods
- Need to coordinate schedule with service provider
Impact of Silverfish on Your Home and Life
Damage to Personal Items
Silverfish are known to cause damage to personal items in your home. They feed on materials that are high in carbohydrates and proteins such as:
These pests are not only damaging to paper products but also textiles, including cotton and linen.
While silverfish don’t pose a direct threat to your health, they may lead to some indirect issues. For instance:
- Their feces can leave yellow stains on walls and fabrics.
- They may attract cockroaches that feed on their carcasses.
Also, their presence may indicate a moisture problem in your home, as they are attracted to damp areas like sinks, bathtubs, or spaces with high humidity.
Prevention and Control Measures
To protect your belongings and maintain a healthy living environment, you can adopt these measures:
- Store dry food items in airtight containers
- Seal wall cracks and gaps with caulking
- Use dehumidifiers to reduce humidity
- Apply insecticides or repellents where necessary
Comparison Table: Chemical vs Non-Chemical Solutions
|Pros: Effective in eradicating silverfish
|Pros: Environmentally friendly and safe for humans and pets
|Cons: May have negative environmental impacts and pose risks to humans and pets
|Cons: Might take longer to see results
In summary, silverfish can cause damage to personal belongings and indirectly impact your health. It’s essential to take preventive measures to keep these pests at bay and maintain a healthy living environment.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Not Trilobites, but Silverfish
Hi there, I’m from Edmonton, Alberta. I’ve found some strange bugs in my bathroom and I have no idea what they are. I don’t have a picture, but they are about two centimeters long, grey and they look almost exactly like trilobites (a prehistoric crustacean extinct hundreds of thousands of years ago) Here’s a picture of what a trilobite looks like, I hope it will help.
Thank you very much.
Since Trilobites have been extinct for millions of years, we can eliminate that posiblility. Silverfish are one of the most primitive groups of insects. They frequently are found in bathrooms. I’m guessing that is what you have. They are household pests which damage books.
Ed. Note: We just recieved this notice which probably identifies Carla’s trilobytes.
(01/16/2005) Carla & trilobites
I used to live in Edmonton too and I can tell you that those sure aren’t silverfish. Carla has SOWBUGS. They are totally harmless but really creepy, and they love to live in your basement. They are also impossible to keep out of your home. Here is a great link to information on the sowbug, which is really a crustacean!
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Letter 2 – Bug of the Month: March 2007 – Silverfish
What is this?
Recently I can see this kind of bug everyday in my house. First I thought it is a House Centipede. But I found there are not enough legs. Please tell me what it is and how to control them (I killed 2-3 everyday). Thanks and regards
This is a Silverfish, a primitive insect. They are considered household pests. They are found in dark, damp areas, often the bathroom and basement. They will eat many things, but are fond of glue that adheres wallpaper to the wall and the glue in book bindings. Your timing was perfect and your photo quite gorgeous, so we are making the Silverfish the featured Bug of the Month for March 2007.
Letter 3 – Cloves for (against) Silverfish
I have a note from some household tips mag that silverfish don’t like clove.
“If you are troubled with silverfish try placing whole cloves in the closets and drawers.”
dunno, but it’s worth a try
I only have a couple in the bathroom and haven’t found where they live.
Wow, we love natural tips for pest control. We will post this one immediately.
Letter 4 – Common Silverfish
Subject: Bug found in bathroom
Geographic location of the bug: Bellingham wa
Time: 12:28 AM EDT
What kind of bug is this
How you want your letter signed: Jordan
This is a Silverfish, a common household pest that is generally found in dark, damp locations. Normally we do not attempt species identifications on Silverfish, but we believe, based on this BugGuide image, that your Silverfish is Lepisma saccharina, the Common Silverfish. According to BugGuide, the habitat is “indoors in warm, damp environments such as bathrooms and kitchens, or in damp basements; rarely encountered outdoors” and they eat “crumbs and food scraps, dried meat, cereals, moist wheat flour, glue on book bindings and wallpaper, starch in clothing made of cotton or rayon fabric.”