How to Get Rid of Silverfish? Silverfish sound like something you’d put in your bag at the candy store, but these insects are far from delectable. They thrive in areas with high humidity, including attics, basements, and bathrooms. If you’ve ever encountered one in the middle of the night, it’d resemble watching a silver insect “swim” across the floor – which is how they get the name “silverfish.”

Unfortunately, silverfish can eat through materials like glue, books, wallpaper, clothing, and flour. If you’re tired of silverfish treating your home like an extended stay at a hotel, continue reading this guide on silverfish pest control. Below, we’ll discuss what silverfish are, what causes silverfish, and most importantly, how to get rid of them – for good.

How to Get Rid of Silverfish & What Are Silverfish?

Silverfish are fish-shaped and metallic in appearance, so they look like they are swimming as they move. Silverfish are also called “bristletails” because of the three long bristles on the rear end of their body.

Silverfish are wingless and run very fast. Adult silverfish can reach a length between half an inch to three-fourths of an inch. Their body shape often resembles a fish, carrot, or teardrop and is covered in scales. Younger silverfish are similar to adults, except that their scales don’t appear until the third or fourth molt.

Female silverfish are always laying eggs once they are mature. The eggs hatch in cracks and crevices within three weeks. The adult stage is reached within four to six weeks. Silverfish can live up to a year without feeding, but they need high humidity for survival. 

Silverfish are found across the United States and are often found in humid areas of homes and businesses, including attics, basements, and bathrooms. They retreat from human presence, so any damage they may have caused may be undetected at first.

What Causes Silverfish?

Silverfish may be more commonly found in commercial buildings such as libraries and offices with an abundant supply of paper products for snacking. However, silverfish are also common in homes. Once silverfish have located a source of food, they prefer to kick their many legs up in especially damp environments. Silverfish only move on once their food source depletes or their environment is no longer suitable.

What Are the Signs of a Silverfish Infestation?

You are more likely to discover a silverfish infestation if you are cleaning out old papers and other materials around your home or office. Look for feeding marks as you do. They will appear more irregular than typical wear and tear, resembling etches along the surface or edge. Infested materials may also have scales, feces that look like black pepper, or yellow stains.

While these pests are often found in humid areas, such as the bathroom, people have reported that they can drop from skylights or light fixtures in the ceiling. This is likely their point of entry into the home.

Silverfish grow in damp and dark places. Large silverfish populations can thrive in new buildings with wet stone and brick. You can commonly find silverfish in:

  • Behind windows
  • Basements
  • Sinks
  • Bathtubs
  • Closet shelves
  • Cupboards
  • Behind baseboards
  • Bookcases
  • Behind windows

How Do You Get Rid of Silverfish in Your House?

Getting rid of silverfish in your attic, basement, or bathroom can be difficult. Silverfish keep to themselves and often go unnoticed. 

Prevention is the best weapon against silverfish. The key to success is to stop an infestation before it happens. Here are a few steps to take to get your silverfish pest control in hand.

Seal Cracks and Repair Damage

Focus on the outside siding, doors, and windows before you seal cracks and make repairs on the inside. Any small area of damage can allow silverfish to slither into your home.

Decrease Humidity

Do you have any leaking water pipes? Are there any moldy materials? These can lead to a silverfish infestation. If you have moisture buildup, plug in a dehumidifier to help decrease humidity and make the environment less inviting to silverfish. 

Eliminate the Food Supply

Silverfish can live for a long time without feeding. Refrain from hoarding or collecting paper products in damp areas to cut off their food supply. Properly store old books and magazines and dispose of unused cardboard in the home. Instead of using cardboard boxes for storage, consider using plastic bins. Similarly, remove all grain items from their boxes in the kitchen, such as flour and oats, and place them in airtight plastic or glass containers. This reduces the chance of silverfish moving into your kitchen. Waking up to make coffee and finding silverfish eating all your oatmeal is not an ideal way to start the day. Starchy foods are a favorite for silverfish, so all accessible flours, pastas, cereals, and pet food. 

Vacuuming Provides Temporary Reprieve

Use a vacuum to suck up the silverfish and the other undesirable elements, including feces and bits of paper fed on. Deeper cleaning is necessary, but vacuuming provides a temporary reprieve.

Allow Natural Predators to Do Their Job

Allow the natural predators of silverfish to do the hunting for you. Centipedes, earwigs, and spiders eat silverfish. Allowing safe, non-venomous spiders to remain in the home helps reduce the number of silverfish.

Clean Out Dark Spaces

Silverfish hide from humans. Aside from cleaning out old papers and similar items, it’s wise to reduce the number of places they could hide. Clean out the clutter from your closets, cupboards, garage, and basement. It’s a great time to go minimalist.

Use Natural Deterrents

The following natural deterrents may help keep silverfish at bay, according to anecdotal reports:

  • Cedar oil and water
  • Cedar shavings
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves

Silverfish are also repelled by citrus fruits, particularly the scent of lemon and orange peel. If you use peels, replace them often. Citrus sprays may be made by mixing lemon juice with water. Then, spray the area.

Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is made from fossilized algae, and this powder dehydrates silverfish when the insects come into contact with it. DE is safe for both pets and humans. Try sprinkling DE around the baseboards and other areas you’ve seen silverfish. These insects are nocturnal, so putting the powder down in the evenings is a great method for getting rid of silverfish.

Try a Few Traps

Traps with sticky tape or ones that use boric acid can help with small infestations. Please be aware that boric acid can harm pets and humans if ingested. Hide non-toxic traps in many places, from desk drawers to dressers and bookshelves. Under the sink and in the basement and attic are also natural habitats for silverfish due to the humidity.

Why Do Silverfish Pose Concerns?

Silverfish frequently damage the property of homes and businesses. However, they can cause health concerns in those who are allergic. A 2015 study analyzed various types of indoor allergens and found that those with a silverfish allergy may have respiratory symptoms. The scales on silverfish can contain a protein known as tropomyosin, and when the scales are shed, this protein can interact with other allergens to trigger more intense reactions. People can also be allergic to silverfish feces.

Silverfish contaminate food products, such as flour, when they infest the kitchen area or pantry storage areas. They contribute to food waste when you have to throw out edible food due to the infestation. Look for feeding marks that look like notches or etches, yellow stains, scales, and feces.

Silverfish Prevention and Control

Thorough inspections of the typical environments and where preferred food materials are available are necessary to prevent and control silverfish infestations. If an infestation is localized to one area, you can assume it’s a recent occurrence. It’s likely that someone brought in infected materials without inspecting the delivery beforehand, or the silverfish may have entered through a damaged area of the property. It’s more likely to be the latter if the infestation is larger.

Be careful storing items against the exterior of your home or business, especially if it’s subject to moisture or may provide a climbing area to enter through crevices in windows and other damaged spots. Again, it’s ideal to repair and seal up any possible nooks and crevices. Inspect your door frames, vents, and utility pipes. Seal all gaps, holes, and cracks in the attic, basement, foundations, and other areas of concern.

Similarly, make a habit of removing wood from the ground and wet leaves away from the home. By reducing the environments silverfish can shelter in and use as food sources, you can deter them from entering your home. Reducing damp areas discourages silverfish from taking up residence, so run a dehumidifier in areas that need it.

Food sources should be placed in airtight plastic or glass containers. Food sources, including dust and paper debris, can be removed from closets and cupboards. Remove clutter from the garage, attic, and basement.  

If you suspect that you have a silverfish infestation or find one, please contact us at Pest Control Unlimited for guidance. We’re happy to inspect your home or office and recommend the appropriate method to get rid of them for good.