How to Get Rid of Silverfish: Quick and Easy Solutions

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.

Understanding Silverfish

Appearance

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.

Characteristics

  • 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.

Feature Silverfish Firebrat
Color Silver or pearl-gray Mottled gray or brown
Scales Shiny Shiny
Length About 0.33 in (0.85 cm) About 0.5 in (12.5 mm) or less
Antennae Long, threadlike Long, threadlike
Tail-like appendages 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

Common Habitats

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 Difficulty Level
Use a dehumidifier High Medium
Ensure proper ventilation Medium Low
Store food in airtight containers High Low
Seal cracks and crevices High Medium

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

Natural Repellents

  • 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.

DIY Traps

  • 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.

Comparison Table

Method Pros Cons
Diatomaceous Earth Non-toxic, effective, easy to apply May need frequent reapplication
Cedar Oil Natural, effective, pleasant scent May not be suitable for those with allergies
Essential Oils Non-toxic, variety of options May require frequent application
Sticky Trap Easy to make and dispose of, inexpensive May not catch all silverfish
Pyrethrin 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

Commercial Insecticides

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

Targeted Treatments

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:

Treatment Toxicity Effectiveness Coverage
Commercial High High Broad-spectrum
Insecticides (Propoxur)
Targeted (Boric Acid) Low High Targeted areas

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

Regular Vacuuming

Vacuum your living spaces frequently. Focus on:

  • Floors and carpets
  • Shelves and crevices

This helps remove dust and eggs, preventing a silverfish infestation.

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.

Comparison Table

Method Pros Cons
Regular Vacuuming Removes dust and eggs May miss some hiding spots
Decluttering 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

DIY Traps Exterminator Services
Affordable and easy to set up Professional expertise and thorough treatment
Temporary solution Long-term solution and ongoing support
Limited effectiveness High success rate in exterminating pests

Pros of DIY traps:

  • Cost-effective
  • 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.

Health Concerns

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

Chemical Solutions 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.

Reader Emails

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

 

strange bug
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.
Carla
Thank you very much.

Hi Carla,
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
Hi!
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!
http://www.pma.edmonton.ab.ca/natural/insects/bugsfaq/sowbug.htm
Chelsea Smith
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Letter 2 – Bug of the Month: March 2007 – Silverfish

 

What is this?
Hi, there,
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
James

Hi James,
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
Date: 10/01/2017
Time: 12:28 AM EDT
What kind of bug is this
How you want your letter signed:  Jordan

Common Silverfish

Dear 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.”

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

1 thought on “How to Get Rid of Silverfish: Quick and Easy Solutions”

  1. I had one of these in my house and then I discovered a nest. My cat was sniffing around in their nest and they ambushed him and killed him. Very deadly creatures. Help.

    Reply

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