Silverfish are nocturnal insects that can be found skulking around your house at night, particularly in dark, humid spaces like the bathroom, the basement, and the attic. Getting rid of these bugs can be tricky, but if you know what they eat to thrive and survive, you can cut off their food sources and eliminate the problem.
What Do Silverfish Eat?
Silverfish have a very diverse diet. They require starch and protein for nourishment which can come from a number of places including:
- Food items like vegetables, grains, cereals, sugary foods, pet food, etc.
- Objects in the house that contain starches like fabrics, paper, money, wallpaper, glue, and more.
Why Are Silverfish a Problem?
Silverfish aren’t poisonous for humans, but apart from being disgusting to look at, they can also be a nuisance in other ways such as:
- Eating their way through paper-based items like books, wallpaper, money, and other such items that contain starch. These items may be left with permanent yellowing stains as well as silverfish droppings that resemble ground pepper.
- Encouraging the growth of mold through their stains and droppings.
- Shedding their scales on your daily objects.
- Eating and leaving droppings in food items that are left open such as cereal boxes, etc.
- Attracting other pests like beetles.
- Aggravating allergies in people through debris they leave around such as the scales they shed.
How to Get Rid of Silverfish
If you have a silverfish infestation, getting rid of them requires consistent effort, including getting rid of their good sources and killing the bugs that are already in your home.
Eliminating Silverfish Food Sources
Take Care of Your Books & Paper-Based Items
Any old magazines and newspapers that aren’t in use should be thrown in a recycling bin. For other books, it’s important to keep them in a space that is well-lit and properly ventilated. If you suspect that these books have been infested by silverfish, use the following methods to get rid of them:
- If only a few books have been infested, they can be placed in plastic bags and in the freezer for 24 hours. This will kill any silverfish hidden in the pages as well as their eggs. Dust the books and make sure they’re completely dry before storing them on your bookshelf.
- For suspected infestations, keep items like cedar wood chips or lavender-scented items or other smells that repel silverfish.
- Don’t store any paper-based items in humid, dark spaces in the house such as the basement, the attic, etc.
- For wallpapered rooms, if the humidity levels are high, turn on the air conditioner or a dehumidifier regularly to aerate the space and keep your home safe from silverfish.
Store Fabrics Properly
Fabrics such as cotton contain starches that attract silverfish. It’s a good idea not to leave your fabrics exposed in the open. Clothes not in use should be sealed in plastic before being stored, away from moisture and humidity.
Keep Food in Airtight Containers
Silverfish are attracted to many dry foods like pasta, rice, flour, cereal, pet food, vegetables, and so on. You may have an infestation if your house is frequently littered with crumbs. Regularly vacuuming the floors, cleaning the countertops, and storing all dry foods in airtight containers can help prevent this.
Keeping Your House Clean & Dry
For dingy, humid corners in the house such as the basement or crawlspaces, open up the vents to allow for proper ventilation. For particularly humid spaces that are prone to silverfish infestations, a dehumidifier may be needed.
They are also attracted to plants – clean up fallen leaves around your house and avoid keeping indoor plants that produce too much moisture.
Bathrooms should have an exhaust fan to air out space after you take a shower.
If you already have an infestation in your home, you may need to resort to using traps and other such techniques.
Commercial pesticides can be sprayed on silverfish when you see them scuttling across your floor. Powdered pesticides can even be placed in openings, including nooks and crannies, where silverfish are likely to come out from.
Setting up Jar Traps
Fill jars with bait and toxic substances like diatomaceous earth (DE) or boric acid and place them in the spaces where you’ve seen silverfish or openings where they are likely to enter. Add a layer of tape around the jar to help the silverfish climb up. Once they’re in the jar, they won’t be able to climb out.
For a non-toxic trap, you can skip the toxic powder and just use the bait – this won’t kill them, but they’ll be trapped long enough for you to find and dispose of them.
Set up Paper Traps
The same powdered substances like powdered pesticide, boric acid, and DE can also be used on paper traps: slather some honey on paper traps and add the powder on top. The bugs will be attracted by the honey and die on the traps.
With these paper traps, you need to be careful to replace them frequently otherwise, they might start attracting other insects like cockroaches.
Precautionary Note: all toxic substances like commercial pesticides and boric acid should be kept out of reach of children and pets.
Using Natural Ingredients to Get Rid of Silverfish
Silverfish are averse to a range of household items like spices, citrusy scents, and some floral and herby smells like lavender or peppermint. Place pouches of these near affected books and openings in your house. If you’re using spices or herbs to repel silverfish, bruise them slightly to release their aroma in the nearby space.
Getting Rid of Silverfish Eggs
Silverfish eggs are very small and difficult to find. A vacuum cleaner can suck the eggs in – vacuum your house every day if you fear an infestation. Do this particularly in the dark, dingy spaces of your home where silverfish lay their eggs that are yellowish in color.
If you have any cracks or similar openings in your home, use caulk to seal them up since these are the places where silverfish frequently lay their eggs. Particularly check damp spaces like the bathroom, attic basement, and the crawl space in your house.
Silverfish eggs take around 20 days to 2 months to hatch, which means that they can reproduce quite quickly. Frequent vacuuming can keep them from hatching in the first place.
Hiring an Exterminator
If the silverfish infestation in your house has reached the point where your wallpaper and books are full of holes and they’ve even managed to damage your money, leave droppings in your food, and more, the infestation might be beyond your control. They’re especially difficult to catch because you can’t find their eggs and they’re fast enough to disappear before you see them.
If this happens, hire an exterminator and once your house has been cleaned out, maintain proper hygiene, and store your food properly.
Get Rid of Silverfish for Good
Knowing what silverfish eat is the key to get rid of an infestation for good. Once you’ve gotten rid of the existing pests in your house, make sure you cut off all their access to food to prevent them from returning. Maintaining these precautions continuously can keep your house silverfish-free and prevent any nasty surprises when you open a book or go to the bathroom at night.
What do silverfish look like?
If you want to kill the silverfish that are already in your home, you need to be able to identify them. Silverfish are distinguishable because of their scaly exterior and their antennas – three on the rear end and two at the front. They are somewhat flat and are generally around ½ inch long.
Where do silverfish live?
You can find the silverfish hiding in your home based on the food they eat. They may be found inside your books, grocery bags, pantry, in holes in your wallpaper, etc. They are particularly attracted to damp, dark spaces such as the crawlspace in your house, kitchen sink, bathroom, etc.
Is one silverfish a sign of an infestation?
If you’ve seen one silverfish, it’s a sign that there are multiple ones hiding in the nooks and shadows of the house and perhaps even behind the wallpaper in your home (you can find out by looking for holes and staining on the wallpaper). Additionally, silverfish mature within just a few months and over the years are capable of laying 100+ eggs, so seeing one is probably something to be worried about.