What Attracts Silverfish: Understanding the Pesky Invaders

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Silverfish are small, wingless insects that can cause damage to your belongings, particularly items made from paper, silk, and some synthetic fabrics. These primitive, silvery to brown creatures thrive in certain conditions, so understanding their preferences can help you prevent their unwelcome presence in your home.

One key factor that attracts silverfish is areas with high humidity and moisture. These insects prefer environments with a humidity level between 75-90%, making damp spaces like basements, kitchens, and bathrooms ideal hiding spots. Additionally, they are drawn to clutter, which provides both food sources and cover from predators.

Food is another major attraction for silverfish. They have a preference for materials high in carbohydrates and protein, such as the glue in book bindings or behind wallpaper, as well as cereal grain products and dried meat. To minimize their presence, it’s essential to clean up food crumbs regularly and store food in sealed containers.

Understanding Silverfish

Physical Characteristics

Silverfish, also known as Lepisma saccharina, are wingless insects covered in glistening scales that give them their distinct silver or pearl-gray color. They usually measure around 0.85 cm (0.33 in) in length and have two long, threadlike antennae. Their bodies are flat, tapered at both ends, and resemble the shape of an earwig. But unlike earwigs, silverfish have three long, thin, tail-like appendages at the end of their abdomen.

Behavioral Traits

Silverfish are nocturnal insects, which means they are primarily active during the night. During the day, they prefer hiding in dark, damp places like basements, attics, and behind baseboards. They feed on various items found around your home, such as paper, fabrics, and even cereals. One of their unique features is their preference for high-humidity environments.

Let’s compare silverfish with another similar insect, the bristletail:

Feature Silverfish Bristletail
Antennae Long, threadlike Short, bristle-like
Wings Wingless Wingless
Body Shape Flat, tapered at both ends, similar to earwig Flattened, elongated shape
Habitat Damp, dark places (e.g., basements, attics, behind baseboards) Outdoor areas, under stones and leaf litter
Behavior Nocturnal, preferring high-humidity environments, feed on paper, fabrics Nocturnal, but less attracted to high humidity, feed on organic matter

By understanding the physical characteristics and behavioral traits of silverfish, you can better identify them and take necessary precautions to prevent their infestation in your home.

Preferred Habitat and Climate

Silverfish in Homes

Silverfish enjoy living in dark, damp, and humid areas around your home. They are most commonly found in places such as:

  • Bathrooms: Silverfish love moisture, making bathrooms an ideal breeding ground.
  • Kitchens: Food sources and moisture from sinks attract silverfish to kitchens.
  • Closets: The darkness and clutter provide them with perfect hiding spots.
  • Walls and baseboards: They often wander around your home’s walls and baseboards seeking food, warmth, and shelter.

These creepy crawlers thrive in environments with high humidity and temperatures between 70°F and 90°F. Make sure you keep an eye on your home’s leaky pipes, windows, and gutters, as they can lead to damp areas where silverfish thrive.

Silverfish and Outdoor Environments

Aside from your home, silverfish can also find refuge in various outdoor spots like:

  • Mulch: The moist, humid conditions of mulch create the perfect habitat for silverfish.
  • Leaky outdoor pipes: Similar to leaky indoor pipes, outdoor pipes that don’t get repaired can also attract silverfish.
  • Clutter: Any clutter in your yard provides these pests with hiding places to rest and breed.

To reduce the likelihood of silverfish infesting these areas, it’s important to maintain proper drainage and gutter systems. Additionally, try to keep your outdoor spaces clear of debris and excess moisture, as this will help deter silverfish from setting up camp.

By understanding the preferred habitats and climate of silverfish, you can take the necessary measures to make your home and outdoor spaces less inviting to these unwelcome pests.

What Attracts Silverfish

Silverfish Diet

Silverfish are attracted to a variety of food sources in your home. They prefer materials which are high in carbohydrates and protein, such as:

  • Grains
  • Cereals
  • Flours
  • Starches
  • Cellulose
  • Vegetables
  • Sugars

Not only do they feed on these items, but they also consume dead insects, pet food, and even some fabrics like silk. By keeping your pantry and other storage areas clean, you can help reduce the risk of a silverfish infestation.

Preferred Materials and Belongings

Silverfish don’t just feast on food, but also target various belongings and materials in your living space. For example, they are known to damage:

  • Books and glue in the bindings
  • Wallpaper and cardboard
  • Clothing, particularly those made from cotton fibers
  • Silk and curtains

Damp and humid environments attract these creatures, so proper moisture control in your home is important. Try to reduce clutter as much as possible to prevent spaces for them to hide.

To summarize, silverfish are attracted to several items in your home including carbohydrates, proteins, and various materials like paper, fabrics, or cardboard. Control moisture and limit access to these items in order to make your home less inviting for these pests.

Silverfish Infestations

Silverfish are attracted to areas with high humidity and can often be found in basements, bathrooms, and kitchens. To prevent silverfish infestation, it’s important to control the environment they thrive in.

Here are some factors that attract silverfish:

  • Moisture: Silverfish need moisture to survive, so they’re drawn to damp locations like bathrooms, basements, or areas with leaking pipes [^1^].
  • Food Sources: They feed on materials high in carbohydrates and protein such as paper, clothes, and even cereals. Keep these items sealed properly to reduce the chances of attracting silverfish.
  • Darkness: Silverfish are nocturnal insects, so they prefer hiding in dark, secluded areas where they can feed and breed unnoticed.

To protect your home from a silverfish infestation, follow these tips:

  • Control Humidity: Keep the humidity levels in your home low by using a dehumidifier or proper ventilation in bathrooms and basements.
  • Seal Cracks and Gaps: Silverfish can enter your home through small cracks and gaps. Seal these openings using caulk or other sealants to prevent their entry.
  • Regular Cleaning: Clean your home regularly, especially in areas where food particles and moisture can accumulate.

By maintaining a dry, clean environment and reducing potential food sources, you can help keep silverfish infestations at bay.

Signs of Infestation

Visual Signs

When looking for signs of a silverfish infestation, keep an eye out for tiny, wingless insects with soft, slim, and flat bodies that are either shiny silver or a mottled gray color. You might also notice faecal pellets that look like pepper and yellowish stains on fabrics or paper.

Material Damage

Silverfish are known to cause damage as they munch on various materials in your home. They’re attracted to starch, which is commonly found in:

  • Books
  • Wallpaper
  • Fabrics
  • Boxes

You’ll likely notice feeding marks, such as irregular holes on these items. Be aware that silverfish can also damage synthetic fibers, and their feeding might leave behind a discolored or yellow stain.

Health Considerations

While silverfish are not directly harmful to humans, they can cause health issues due to the allergens produced by their molted exoskeletons:

  • Watch for allergy symptoms
  • Clean regularly, especially in suspected infestation areas
  • Consider allergy medications or treatments if necessary

In summary, be vigilant for visual signs of silverfish, assess any material damage, and monitor health conditions related to allergens. By identifying infestations early, you can take proper steps to manage and prevent further issues.

Preventing Silverfish Infestations

To prevent silverfish infestations in your home, it’s essential to address the factors that attract them. First and foremost, try to reduce moisture in your home. Silverfish thrive in humid environments, so focusing on moisture control will help deter their presence.

Some practical steps you can take include:

  • Using dehumidifiers in damp areas of your home
  • Ensuring proper ventilation in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms
  • Fixing any leaks in your plumbing system

It’s also crucial to maintain cleanliness throughout your home. Regular vacuuming helps remove silverfish eggs and keeps potential food sources at a minimum. Be sure to pay extra attention to areas that are prone to silverfish, like basements, attics, and storerooms.

In addition to vacuuming, store your food, paper, and fabric items in airtight containers to prevent silverfish from accessing them. This will not only protect your belongings but also limit their food sources.

Finally, seal any cracks or gaps in your home’s structure with caulk. This will prevent silverfish from entering your home and finding their way into your living spaces. Pay special attention to baseboards, windows, and door frames where gaps may be present.

By following these practical steps, you’ll create an environment that is less attractive to silverfish and prevent infestations from occurring in your home. So, remember to reduce moisture using dehumidifiers and proper ventilation, maintain cleanliness through vacuuming, store items in airtight containers, and seal any gaps with caulk.

Getting Rid of Silverfish

DIY Methods

There are several do-it-yourself methods to help you get rid of silverfish from your home.

  • Traps: Set up silverfish traps at various places in your home. These traps usually contain sticky surfaces and bait to attract silverfish.
  • Vacuum: Vacuum your home regularly to clean up any silverfish, their eggs, and potential food sources. Pay special attention to dark and damp areas.
  • Essential oils: Some essential oils, such as lavender and citrus, may help repel silverfish. Spray diluted oils around their common hiding spots.
  • Diatomaceous earth: Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth around areas where you find silverfish. It will damage their exoskeletons, eventually killing them.
  • Cleaning: Keep your home clean and clutter-free to reduce food sources and potential hiding spots for silverfish.
  • Boric acid: Use boric acid as a natural insecticide to control silverfish infestations. Sprinkle it around corners and other areas where silverfish may reside.

Professional Services

If your silverfish problem continues despite trying DIY methods, consider contacting a professional exterminator or pest control service. They can assess your situation and provide a tailored solution to effectively deal with the infestation. Some benefits of professional services include:

  • Expertise: Pest control experts have the knowledge and resources to handle silverfish infestations properly.
  • Efficiency: Professional exterminators can quickly and effectively eliminate silverfish from your home, saving you time and effort.
  • Long-term solutions: In addition to immediate action, pest control services may provide preventive measures to keep silverfish from returning.

Remember, always weigh the pros and cons of DIY methods and professional services to choose the best option for your situation.


In the end, it can be helpful to understand what attracts silverfish so you can take preventative measures in your home. These insects are drawn to:

  • Damp and humid environments
  • Starchy materials such as paper, glue, and fabric
  • Sugary substances

To keep silverfish away, try these tactics:

  • Keep humidity levels low by using a dehumidifier
  • Store food in airtight containers
  • Regularly clean and vacuum your home

By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to maintaining a silverfish-free environment. Remember, it’s easier to prevent an infestation than it is to get rid of one, so being proactive is key.

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 – Silverfish


Whats this bug?
Location: Riverside CA
February 23, 2011 3:46 am
Does anyone outhere know what bug this is. There alot of them in my apartment.
Signature: What tha bug?


Dear What tha bug?,
You have an infestation of Silverfish, a type of primitive insect that commonly infests homes, feeding on a wide variety of stored foods and other organic materials including the starch used to hang wallpaper and to bind books.  Silverfish are reported to be extremely difficult to eradicate.

Letter 2 – Silverfish


Please Tell me this isn’t a species of ROACH!
Location: San Diego, Ca ??
February 22, 2011 12:23 am
I’ve seen two of these bugs around my house. One was in the pantry and this one was crawling through the living room. I promise I put them outside! Thinking he just snuck in from outdoors. They don’t seem that fast.. So my questions
1. Is this the kind of bug that would be ’infesting’ my walls?
2. What kind of bug is this?
3. How do I get rid of these guys before my partner sees one?
Signature: Please don’t tell me this is a Roach!!


Dear Please don’t tell me this is a Roach!!,
We will not tell you this is a Roach because it is not.  It is a Silverfish, a common household pest.  Silverfish are generally found in damp dark locations.  They will eat a variety of organic substances in the house including the starch used to hang wallpaper and in book bindings as well as typical food items.  They are difficult to eradicate once they have become established.  They may be in your walls.  We do not offer extermination advice, however, some of our advertisers are in the exterminating business.

Letter 3 – Silverfish


Can I go fishing with this?
Location: New England
July 11, 2011 11:57 pm
This bug reminds me of something I could use to fish with, but it’s sort of small in my opinion. This is the second night in a row I’ve caught one and released it outside. Should I be releasing it? I’ve done lots of searches on characteristics it has, but I can’t for the life of me find out anything on it. It’s about a centimeter long.
The one before this one had antennae as well, but this one seems to have lost them somewhere. I might be guilty of doing so when I caught it in a plastic cup.
I released him after I took the picture, but I’m pretty sure we have these taking over our house. I’m kind of a softie and I don’t want to kill them, but are they considered pests?
Signature: I don’t like fishing


Dear IDLF,
We would not recommend trying to impale a Silverfish on a hook as they tend to just disintegrate into a dry powdery substance.  Silverfish are generally considered household pests that will eat a wide variety of organic materials, including wallpaper glue.


  • 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.

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  • 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.

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Tags: Siverfish

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • These REALLY freak me out because of how fast they move! I’ve NEVER seen anything else move that fast! I spooked one on a bathroom counter before, and it “flew” right passed me onto the floor, and didn’t even have to stop to recover (the counter is about three and half feet tall) before running away under a door. I barely saw the thing, but even if I hadn’t, I would have known it was a Silverfish. The shimmery silver is pretty and does remind me of a fish though.


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