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Your Guide to Silverfish in Your Home

As one of the most incorrectly identified bugs found in homes across the US, it’s not uncommon that you may have mixed up a silverfish for a centipede or a beetle. Silverfish may look like other common pests, but they have distinct diets and habits that make them particularly troublesome.

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Silverfish are attracted to warm, humid spaces, so your home makes an ideal hiding place for silverfish to find food, lay eggs, and stay for the long haul.

So, do you have to be worried about silverfish if you spot one in your home? Though they’re more of a nuisance than a threat, they are far from innocent. Silverfish can carry bacteria, break into your cereal boxes, and spread at alarming rates.

In this guide, we’ll explore all the things you should know about finding a silverfish in your home. Determine the best way to get rid of a silverfish infestation, how to prevent them from growing, and whether it’s time to call a professional.

Quick Things to Know About Silverfish

Let’s start with the silverfish basics. Silverfish are one of the oldest insects on the planet, dating back hundreds of millions of years. Their broad diet and resilient shell protect them against intruders and keeps them alive in extreme conditions. 

Here are some easy things you need to know when dealing with silverfish in your house.

They Have Distinct Features

Despite the confusion with firebrats and centipedes, silverfish are quite distinct. They are often gray to silver in color with oval bodies, not unlike a fish. 

Silverfish only grow up to about ¾ of an inch and have a tail and a set of antennae that extend out to either side. One of the easiest ways to distinguish these insects is their number of legs. Silverfish have six legs, unlike centipedes, which are known for their one-leg-per-segment body structure.

It is also easy to also mix silverfish up with firebrats—insects that love hot temperatures and a very similar diet to silverfish. Firebrats have a wider range of colors on their backs, typically everything from tan to black. Silverish are monochromatic and often have tapered bodies.

They Have an Impressive Diet

Silverfish are most likely to become a nuisance because of their unique diets. They have been known to eat a long list of starchy foods, silks, glues, and even fabrics and cardboard. 

This means that they can wreak havoc in your kitchen. Silverfish are known for breaking into cereal, pasta, or flour containers. As omnivores, they also eat dead insects and other protein-heavy items.

In addition to carrying bacteria to these items, silverfish can also damage their chosen meal with jaw markings, dark stains, and even the chance of mold. It is not uncommon for these insects to leave feces or scales wherever they go. All food items that are known to have come in contact with a silverfish should be thrown away.

They Can Lay Eggs Once Inside Your Home

Though silverfish are not considered highly social creatures like ants or bees, they can still lay eggs throughout your home and become an infestation. 

Once indoors, silverfish can mate and lay eggs no matter the weather outside, which can make them particularly difficult to eliminate. One female can lay around 20 eggs in one batch over a couple of days. These eggs are often dropped and protected in warm, undisturbed places in your home like cracks and corners.

The warmth and humidity in your home will determine how quickly the young larvae grow into adults over the next several months. Once they are fully grown, silverfish can live impressively for up to eight years.

Are Silverfish Dangerous?

As we touched on earlier, silverfish do not pose a threat to humans in the same way that a parasitic insect might, such as a mosquito or a tick. They are not known for carrying disease or for being aggressive toward humans. 

However, since silverfish travel from bacteria-filled areas to our food sources, they can carry bacteria. Anything picked up from a trip around inside your garbage is liable to end up in your food.

In general, however, silverfish are more of a problem when they reproduce in great numbers in your home. You are unlikely to get sick from their presence.

Silverfish can cause great damage to your belongings, including artwork, clothing, and wallpaper. They can even chew on paper and cardboard, threatening heirlooms in storage when left undisturbed for years. 

Since they consume many natural fibers and adhesives, silverfish can both chew slowly away at these items, but they can also leave markings and the threat of mold wherever they go.

Understanding the Silverfish Environment

When battling any sort of insect or rodent infestation, the trick to getting rid of the intruder is by creating an inhospitable environment for them to thrive. Here are some important things to know about the silverfish’s environment both inside and out of the home.

Outdoor Silverfish Homes

Silverfish naturally thrive outdoors during the year, but tend to diminish in numbers in colder temperatures. They do best when temperatures hang between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit and when humidity is high.

Outside, you’re likely to find silverfish in:

  • Mulch
  • Decaying leaves
  • Rich soil
  • Gardens
  • Decaying logs
  • Tree bark
  • Bird nests
  • Animal dens

If you live in a more temperate or colder part of the country, silverfish will hibernate or die in the winter, unless they can make it inside for shelter.

Indoor Silverfish Environment

Silverfish will not typically appear out in the open, especially during the day. As nocturnal creatures, they prefer dark and hidden places and will run quickly out of sight if found.

Once they get inside our homes, silverfish will head for places of constant warmth and humidity such as bathrooms, basements, and attics. Luckily, they cannot live in water itself, so you do not have to worry about them coming up throughout the drains.

More specifically, silverfish enjoy small spaces where they can go unbothered for days at a time. This may include:

  • Cracks and holes in your walls and floors
  • Pantries
  • Cupboards
  • Storage areas
  • Boxes and storage bags
  • Attics
  • Basements
  • Bathrooms
  • Under sinks
  • Cellars
  • Garages
  • Closets
  • Around beds

Silverfish Prevention

Your best bet in getting ahead of a silverfish infestation is by implementing preventative measures throughout and around the outside of your home. Whether you recently spotted a silverfish or you’re concerned about an infestation, work your way through this checklist to keep the issue from taking off.

Start Outside

As in the case with most pest issues, the larger the population of pests outside your home, the more likely they are to try and get indoors. By balancing your outdoor population of silverfish, you can lower your chances of an indoor infestation.

Remove piles of old mulch, decaying leaves, or thick brush from the immediate perimeter of your home. These dense and moist areas are ideal for silverfish to thrive and lay eggs.

Check Your Plants

Before bringing potted plants in from the outside, check your soil and plants for anything hitching a ride inside. Larger potted plants with dense soil could be hiding silverfish or other pests.

Close Up Your Perimeter

The most common ways that pests get into homes are openings in screens, doors, foundations, walls, and roofs. Silverfish can fit through incredibly small spaces, breaking in through openings in screens or even slightly cracked windows. The moment the winter cold starts to hit, bugs like silverfish will look for a way inside.

Lower Your Home Humidity

The drier you home, the less likely silverfish will arrive and lay eggs. These bugs specifically need high humidity—normally over 75 percent—to do well, so removing this moisture will keep them away.

It is also important to keep moisture in check in commonly humid rooms like the bathroom and basement. Be sure to install a bathroom fan and create proper circulation in both spaces.

If your basement and cellar are prone to flooding, install a dehumidifier and quality sump pump to avoid standing water.

Check Your Shingles

Silverfish are notorious for coming in through your singles and eaves. When harsh weather breaks down the seal of our roofs, bugs that live in trees have immediate access to the warmth of your attic. 

Roof shingles can also develop mold, further attracting silverfish for this common meal.

Seal Your Pantry

In addition to other common pantry bugs like beetles and weevils, silverfish can find their way into your pantry, even breaking into sealed boxes. If you store an abundance of grains, cereals, pasta, and flour, redistribute them into sealed glass, metal, or plastic containers. 

If you’ve had issues with silverfish in the past, we also recommend cleaning off the bottom and the corners of your cupboards occasionally for loose crumbs that could attract insects.

Clear Away Clutter

Silverfish need a place to hide to stay inside your home. When there are fewer places to burrow and go days without a disturbance, they are less likely to lay eggs.

Avoid piles of storage containers, books, or other cluttering items in your home so it can be easier to sweep through your space when checking for pests.

Check Your Wallpaper

Silverfish enjoy the adhesive on wallpaper, especially when it begins to deteriorate. Check your wallpaper regularly for holes and peeling. If you want to truly create a silverfish home, choose painted walls over wallpapered ones.

How to Treat Silverfish Problems on Your Own

Smaller silverfish infestations could be prevented or stopped in their tracks by a few simple home remedies. You should note, however, that DIY and store-bought traps need to be checked and replaced on a regular basis to ensure they are keeping silverfish from reproducing faster than you can catch them.

We’ve included some of the most popular home silverfish remedies below.

Build a Homemade Trap

Much like you would do for fruit flies or fleas, you can build a relatively simple home trap if you detect silverfish in your space.

Place a few sugary or starchy pieces of food—such as cereal or oatmeal—in the base of a jar, cup, or bowl. Cover the top of the container with tape, leaving a small amount of space open for the silverfish to push inside.

Keep the hole small enough so that the silverfish will get stuck to the tape on their way out after eating.

Spread Diatomaceous Earth

This white powder made up of fossilized algae is a go-to natural remedy for pest control. Spread the power throughout trouble spots in your home, such as in the edges of pantries, around your garbage, or in the backs of closets. The mixture will kill silverfish when consumed.

Use Boric Acid

Common store-bought silverfish traps contain boric acid. The traps will attract silverfish much like the Diatomaceous Earth or cereal and poison them after consumption.

Spread Citrus Essential Oils

In a spray bottle, dilute orange or lemon peel essential oils and lightly spray the mixture in problem areas throughout your home. If you have pets or small children, check the precautions of essential oils before distributing heavily across common surfaces.

Ultrasound Tools

In most pest control aisles, you can also purchase small plug-in ultrasonic devices that ward off bugs with a tone undetectable to humans. These devices have mixed results for different pests, so it is often used in conjunction with other methods.

Professional Pest Control for Silverfish

Wondering how to get rid of silverfish quickly, safely, and without a resurgence? The experts at Aptive are here to provide eco-conscious pest control treatments that consider your whole how to control unwelcome insects and rodents.

We specialize in treating a wide range of regionally specific pests, including silverfish and similar insects. Not only will we remove silverfish quickly so you can get back to living comfortably, but we will also follow up to ensure they have not returned with the changing seasons.

Our guaranteed contracts provide peace of mind from summer to winter and all the days in between, ensuring that our treatments worked the first time. 

Contact an Aptive team member for a personalized quote and thorough home inspection the moment you detect you could be dealing with a silverfish infestation.

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