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Signs of a Silverfish Infestation and How To Stop It

August 01, 2022

By Daniel Baldwin, BCE, CCFS, CP-FS

Silverfish are fairly mysterious to the average person due to their very speedy movements and tendency to live in damp, dark places. Known for damaging books, clothing, and contaminating food in your kitchen, these pests aren’t usually ones you want in your home. Learn how to spot them and how to get rid of them if they are posing a problem.

What Are Silverfish?

Despite their name, silverfish are not actually fish. They are wingless insects that have flat, silvery scales with three antennae on their tails. Silverfish move with a quick, swim-like motion, thus their name. 

What Do Silverfish Eat?

Silverfish are considered pests because they commonly eat paper products, wallpaper glue, bookbindings, and food products, especially dry grains. Left unchecked, these speedy insects will also eat fabric and have the potential to create holes in clothing, much like a moth. 

In the wild, silverfish will eat other insects, leaves, fungi, and other plant material.

Silverfish can live without food for long periods of time, up to weeks or even months. Because of this, it can be difficult to get rid of them once they’re in your home. With their sneaky habit of living in small cracks and crevices, coupled with eating infrequently, you may think they’re gone but they could pop back up months after you last saw one. 

Where Do Silverfish Live?

Silverfish can be found in homes year-round as long as there are warm and humid places for them to live. Silverfish are commonly found in areas that have rainy winter months since humidity is higher inside homes. 

Found across the world, silverfish are known to inhabit dark, damp, outdoor places, such as under rocks, logs, and soil next to building foundations. If they do make their way inside they are often found in basements, attics, and bathrooms, specifically in cracks in flooring and under household items, like kitchen and bath mats. These shy critters are also nocturnal. 

Are Silverfish Harmful?

Silverfish do not bite and are not harmful to humans, although they are considered a pest due to the damage they can cause to items in your home, especially paper products. 

What Are Signs of a Silverfish Infestation?

If you have a flood, leaky sink, water damage, or overall propensity for dampness in your home, you may be susceptible to a silverfish infestation. If silverfish are living in your home but not causing visible damage to your books or clothing, it can be tough to spot them. These insects prefer to use their sprinter legs to crawl out of sight if they are exposed. 

If you suspect you may have silverfish, check under your bath mats. When we get out of the shower or bath and stand on the mat, moisture can stay trapped underneath if the humidity in your home is high. If you don’t pick up your mat each time, this undisturbed, humid place is perfect for silverfish to call home. Other likely places that you could find silverfish lurking are in the corners of cupboards (especially under kitchen or bathroom sinks), under any peeling or lifting flooring, under any cardboard boxes in your attic or basement, and in any crack or gaps around your foundation. 

How To Get Rid of Silverfish

As with many pest control issues, prevention is the most important step. Silverfish can take some time to get rid of once you have them in your home, so it’s best to make sure they don’t have a reason to be in there in the first place. There are a few main things you can do to get a silverfish population under control. 

Get a Dehumidifier

If you have spaces in your home that are prone to dampness, make sure you have a dehumidifier in these areas. You might not need to run it year-round, as silverfish prefer a humidity level of 70-90%. If you live in a humid area, like the Pacific Northwest, you might only need to run a dehumidifier during the rainy winter months. 

Swap Out Cardboard Boxes

Silverfish love eating cellulose fiber for its starch content, so swapping cardboard boxes for plastic storage bins will give silverfish less reason to lurk in your storage spaces. Keep in mind when doing this that plastic totes can trap moisture under them, so make sure they’re raised off the ground to allow for airflow. 

Routinely Check for Leaks

Leaks under sinks and around toilets can go unnoticed unless you’re on the lookout for them. Check for any moisture that may be accumulating in these areas as well as places where flooring is lifted or feels soft. 

Seal Cracks and Gaps 

Stay on top of your home maintenance to keep pests out. With their bias for living in crevices and cracks, any openings on the outside of your home are an opportunity for silverfish to come right in. 

Every few months, take a walk around your home to assess the condition of your siding, foundation, and window and door frames. Look for any gaps where a relatively small and slender insect could sneak in and patch those areas with the appropriate materials.

Use an Insecticide 

If you’re having trouble getting rid of the silverfish in your home, you might want to try an insecticide. If you have children or pets in your home, you’ll likely want to use a food-grade insecticide that’s safe if it happens to be consumed accidentally. 

Call a Hawx Pest Control Professional 

When prevention and control options aren’t working, you can always call your local Hawx pest control experts to help you. They’ll do an inspection and put together a plan to help you get rid of these sneaky household pests.

It’s never fun having silverfish in your home, but they aren’t dangerous and can be prevented with relative ease when compared to other infestations. If you take the appropriate preventative steps, like keeping cracks and gaps sealed, drying your bath mat between showers, and making sure any humid areas have a dehumidifier, you’ll be more likely to remain silverfish-free.

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