The word “silverfish” conjures up images of a slimy insect with numerous legs that scares the bejeesus out of you. It’s all because of the name given to this critter that has people confused. But make no mistake… silverfish will wreak havoc in your home and on your precious books. Don’t be embarrassed if you assumed that a silverfish was a water insect. Again, it’s the name.
Alright, so back to the question ― what do silverfish bites look like? Well, if your books have little scratch marks on them, holes in the edges and you see a little white residue in the nooks and crannies of your bookshelf, then those, my friend, are signs that a silverfish was in the building.
What Silverfish Bites Look Like
To get a better idea of what silverfish bites actually look like, take a look at this video, where a guy lets a silverfish bite him!
Spotting Silverfish Infestation Signs
Sorry to tell you this but you won’t know you have a silverfish infestation until you see their bite signs on your belongings. These buggers are small, fast, and hard to catch. Killing them is like playing a game of whack-a-mole because they are scaredy cats.
They despise human interaction and therefore, live in dark and damp places, which include the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, basement, and the attic if you have a leaking roof. While there are plenty of ways to kill them and stop the infestation from ever occurring again, first you will have to find out that it’s them you are dealing with.
Let us paint a picture for you: Maria recently moved into a new house. The previous owners left a lot of things behind, which included a refrigerator, two cupboards, a bed set with a mattress, and two side lamps. Ecstatic, she inspects everything to make sure there are no termites in the furniture but the bed reveals some black spots and a large yellow stain. Maria decides to throw it out and buy a new one.
After a week, she is fully settled in and enjoying the city view from her balcony. The place is still a little messy because a few unopened boxes are piled in the basement. Then there’s the peeling yellow wallpaper in the same room, which is quite ugly. Maria decides that as soon as she gets her first salary, she will get the wallpaper removed and the house painted.
A month passes and she sees something odd in her belongings. The boxes with some of the remaining clothes that she hadn’t yet hung had little holes in them. She opened her box of books and lo and behold, they weren’t any better. Some of them had these little scratch marks and the edges were covered in a white dandruff-like substance. She took out all her belongings, dusted them, and brought everything into the lounge. After setting apart the damaged clothes and books, she got up to place the rest into the cupboard. As she opened the doors, the first thing she saw was the same signs on some of her other clothes.
Now that you know what silverfish bites look like and where you will find these nasty insects, let’s take a look at how to identify them:
A silverfish has a flat and elongated body with a tapered end. From the top, the body is segmented with silver-grey, shiny scales. The head has two long antennas and the tail has three bristles. Its tail is what gives the silverfish an alternate name called “bristletail”.
Similar to other insects, this slimy critter has 3 pairs of legs. Most of the adult silverfish measure half-inch and due to their light color and transparent appendages, they are hard to see. You might spot them wriggling near the shower stall or in the empty bathtub. That’s about as close as you will get to them. Since they move quite fast, the slithering motion gives you an illusion that they are swimming on land. Hence, the name silverfish!
How Silverfish Enter Your House
If you recall the story written above, the two places Maria found silverfish were in the basement and cupboard. As mentioned earlier, silverfish like dark and damp places but that’s not all. They also love starch, which is found in wallpaper, books, and some fabrics.
In this case, the cupboard was either a bargain deal that the previous owners got from a thrift store that brought in the infestation or they unknowingly bought something from the streets that were infested. That’s how silverfish enter your house. As for the basement, the moist floor and old wallpaper created the perfect combination for silverfish to breed.
Silverfish are nocturnal creatures and terrorize your home at night. The reason you don’t spot them easily is that as squeamish as you are about them, they are a bit shy of you. Your presence scares them, which is why they actively search for food in the dark. Yellow stains, which are fecal residues, and white scales that form their exoskeleton are prominent signs that they have infested your house.
Are Silverfish Dangerous?
The good news is that you and your pets are safe from silverfish. They will not bite you. Period. They keep to their books and damp surfaces but the skin they shed can cause allergies. Your pet might see them as a delicious snack and that’s about all the danger they pose.
Silverfish are a nuisance that destroys your belongings. Imagine having a first edition copy of a famous author that is worth thousands of dollars. How would you feel if the pages had little holes in them? The book will lose its value and all that time and money you spent on acquiring it will be for nothing.
Silverfish and Allergies
We have already established that silverfish do not bite humans. However, close contact with the exoskeleton they shed can cause allergies. The allergen associated with these insects is called tropomyosin. It’s the same allergen that is found in shellfish and shrimps. It’s triggered by the following sources:
- Silverfish feces
- Inhaling allergens
- Ingesting allergens
Rhinitis, also known as nose inflammation, is the most common side effect of this allergen. People who are hypersensitive to such insects catch this allergy first. For children with respiratory problems, silverfish pose a grave threat.
Getting Rid of Silverfish
So, we know that silverfish don’t bite people. Although, you will find some accounts online where people claim that they experienced a sharp sensation on the spot where they found a silverfish attached to their skin. It’s highly possible that the insect in question was an earwig, which pinches human beings.
There have been various studies conducted on how silverfish can cause allergies but when it comes to bites on humans, there’s nothing concrete.
No matter the case, it’s important to get rid of these insects because they can destroy your home. If you have pets and children, then using chemicals to kill silverfish might not be a good idea. Luckily, there are plenty of natural ways to get rid of them.
The first thing you need to do is clean all their hidey holes. Take the following maintenance steps to get started:
- Improve ventilation
- Repair leaky faucets and pipes
- Using a dehumidifier, reduce air moisture, especially in the basement
- Regularly clean and vacuum silverfish eggs. Sweep away any scraps of paper and food crumbs, and use bleach to clean mold
- Clean under sinks
- Fill any cracks you see in walls
- Remove uneaten pet food
- Clean crevices around refrigerators and ovens, and alongside baseboards
- Reseal the areas where the wallpaper has peeled off
- Seal food containers properly in glass jars. Pack photo albums and other important paper in a box not made of paper
- Clean cupboards before placing in any paper products
- Properly inspect drawers and cupboards to find out if they have any cracks or gaps then properly patch them to prevent silverfish from entering
A DIY Trick to Get Rid of Silverfish
A great way to find out if you have silverfish infestation is to place index cards coated with a dry mixture of flour and water. Check the cards after a couple of days. If you see tiny scratch marks on the card then you have a silverfish infestation.
Your next step should be to trap them. Here’s how to do it:
- Put a piece of bread in a glass jar and cover it with masking tape, leave the top open (the tape provides traction that helps the silverfish climb to the top)
- Place the jar in the infested place
The silverfish will fall into the jar and have trouble coming out, effectively trapping it.
In conclusion, silverfish do not bite people but they do bite anything that contains starch. You won’t spot them right away because they are quite fast on their feet but you can find out if you have any infestation with signs such as yellow stains of fecal matter and holes in books and wallpaper. If the infestation is out of hand and the trap doesn’t work that well then the last resort is to call an exterminator.