Silverfish are small, scaly insects that are found in damp, humid spaces in your house such as in the bathroom, the basement, any crawlspaces, and inside books. While they’re not a threat to your health, a silverfish infestation in your books will leave them with holes through the pages and unsightly yellowing stains. Read on as we look at different ways to protect books from silverfish and how to completely get rid of an infestation.
How to Tell if You Have a Silverfish Infestation
Silverfish are quick creatures with a love for dark spaces, so you may not always see them. However, they leave behind telltale signs when silverfish eat books and paper, such as:
- Holes in pages as well as jagged edges
- Yellowing stains
- Black flecks like ground pepper
- Silverfish scales and droppings
- Abrasions on photos and other thick/hard paper
- Scratch marks on the wallpaper
- Dead bodies of silverfish
In some cases, you may catch them in the act of chewing paper as well. They also have a taste for glue and paste so chewed book bindings and damaged wallpaper is also likely to be the work of a silverfish.
Different Ways to Protect Books from Silver Fish
Depending on the level of the infestation, you can get rid of silverfish with simple home remedies or with something stronger:
Natural Ways to Get Rid of Silverfish
Keep Your Books Away from Humidity
Silverfish thrive in places with moisture and humidity. Make sure you don’t have any leaky pipes or faucets in the house. Store your books in a well-ventilated area and turn on a dehumidifier if necessary. The attic and other storage spaces are not ideal for storing books since they attract silverfish.
If you are storing books in the attic or similar space, keep them in airtight bags or containers. Vacuum the area frequently to remove any silverfish that may have crept in. Sealed plastic bags are ideal for storing books that are not in use.
Silverfish don’t like thyme. Get your hands on some fresh thyme sprigs, dry them completely and puncture them to release their aroma. Place the springs close to your books or scatter them around your bookshelf. Make sure you replace the thyme frequently for this method to be effective.
Keep Your Books Away from Food
Silverfish eat many things, including cereal and grains. Keep your food items well sealed and store your books far away from them.
Baking Soda Traps
Baking soda is toxic for silverfish. On a piece of parchment, add a thin layer of honey and coat it with baking soda – leave these close to your books to catch the insects.
Scented Oils & Sprays
Scents like peppermint and lavender are disliked by silverfish. Combine these oils with water, place them in a spray bottle and spritz the mixture around your books and in any other places where you’ve seen silverfish or they’re likely to come from.
Silverfish also dislike citrusy smells and other strong-smelling items like sage. You can convert any of these into a spray or create little scented packets that you can leave on top of and around your bookshelf.
Store Your Books in Cedar Wood
Silverfish are averse to cedar wood which gives you two options:
- Store your books in a cedar wood chest
- Place cedar wood chips around your books and any openings in the house where the pests are likely to be coming in from.
Sealing up any Gaps
Silverfish make their way into your house through openings like windows and doors as well as any gaps or cracks in the walls. Seal up any cracks and gaps with a little caulk to keep them from coming back.
Chemical Ways to Get Rid of Silverfish
Natural remedies are only useful if the silverfish haven’t caused any damage yet. If there are holes or yellow stains in your books, the infestation is more widespread and you’ll need a better solution to get rid of the silver insects.
Boric acid is toxic for silverfish since it destroys their exoskeletons and leaves them to die. It can be sprinkled on bookshelves and any open spaces and cracks in the house through which these bug can come in.
You can also create boric acid traps: cover a mason jar with tape or fabric to make it easy for the silverfish to climb in. sprinkle the boric acid inside and add a little bit like cereal crumbs. Once the silverfish climb inside, they’ll come in contact with the boric acid and die.
For a less toxic trap, you can even leave out the boric acid since the silverfish can’t climb out. Clean and replace these jars regularly.
Please note that boric acid is toxic for humans and should be kept out of reach or children and pets.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
DE is not toxic for humans, but it can dehydrate silverfish upon contact. Dust this white powder in any openings where the silverfish are moving around from and leave some around your bookshelf. You can also add it to the boric acid trap.
For a visual representation of how to use DE properly, click here.
Look for insecticides designed specifically to tackle silverfish and ones that won’t damage the pages of your book. Powdered insecticides work best for sprinkling close to the books. However, you can use a spray to kill those that are on the floor or anywhere else in the house. Do not spray books or papers since this can destroy them completely.
Hiring an Exterminator
As a last resort, if the silverfish infestation is widespread among your books and other spaces in your house, you may need to get the place fumigated. Make sure to remove all your books and papers from the house and keep them in an environment free of moisture and humidity while your house is being cleaned out.
Check any New Books that Come Into the House
If you’ve purchased new books, papers, or something paper-based, check it thoroughly for signs of silverfish damage. If there are signs of silverfish damage, keep them away from your other books until you’ve cleaned them completely. Here is how you can take care of that:
Clean the books with vinegar
For moldy or damp books, soak a cloth in water with a slight bit of vinegar added to the mix. Clean the pages and the binding of the book with this cloth and let it dry under the sun for around 30 minutes. Bring the book/s indoor and once they’re completely dry, store them on your bookshelf.
Freeze the books
For books that show holes or silverfish remnants, you’ll need to be a bit more extreme. Place the book in a plastic bag and freeze it for 24 hours. This will kill any silverfish or silverfish eggs that may be hiding among the pages.
Once you remove the book from the freezer, clean it with the vinegar cloth, remove any dust and place it on your bookshelf.
Get Rid of Silverfish Permanently
Even after you’ve gotten rid of your silverfish problem, it’s a good idea to keep taking precautionary measures. This includes cleaning your house regularly, turning on the air conditioner or a dehumidifier, and storing your books in a well-lit, properly ventilated space. Keep some bug spray handy to kill any silverfish that stray in your home.
What do silverfish look like?
On average, silverfish are about half an inch long with silvery scaled bodies. They are flat and long and are identifiable by their antennas: three on the rear end and two at the front. They can move quite quickly and generally prefer to stay in the dark so it’s best to keep your books in a place that gets plenty of light.
For more on identifying silverfish, click here.
What do silverfish eat?
Silverfish have a very diverse diet. They eat everything from food scraps and grains to dandruff, glue, paper, hair, carpet fuzz, and so on. If you have an infestation, you’ll need to make sure that you eliminate all these food sources to keep them from coming back.
Why do silverfish eat paper and books?
Silverfish survive on a diet of carbs and starches. When tree bark is broken down into pulp and processed to make paper, its cellulose is converted into starch, which then becomes a source of nourishment for silverfish. Keep an eye out for silverfish since they also eat money and wallpaper! Avoid keeping any magazines or newspapers in the bathroom where they can be attacked by silverfish at night.