Learn powerful up to date methods from the experts that will stop Silverfish in their tracks and get rid of them for good.
Lets get started!
24 Minute Read
Table of Contents (Double Tap to Jump)
How To Get Rid of Silverfish – An Ultimate Guide (2023)
You’ve noticed a variety of peculiar signs around your home. Yellow stains are appearing on your clothes, and you’ve noticed small black pellets around the house. Finally, you go to get a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Horror of horrors, the box is squirming with creepy little insects that go running in every direction. That’s right, you have a silverfish infestation. You’re probably wondering if they’re dangerous, why they’re infesting your home, and how to get rid of silverfish bugs. But first of all, what are silverfish?
What are Silverfish?
Silverfish are one of the most prolific nuisance insects in the world and go by different names in different countries. Other colloquial names include bristletails and paper fish, but their scientific name is Lepisma saccharinum. You can identify Lepisma saccharinum easily by sight since they have a highly distinctive appearance.
The body of a silverfish has a curved shape that resembles a fish in shape. Another creepy, fish-like touch to their appearance is movement. When a silverfish moves, its body will sway side to side similar to a fish swimming through the water. Fully mature insects have an exoskeleton with a silver gleam, which explains their most common name. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see a few small tail-like protrusions with bristles on the back of the insect. A silverfish bug never grows particularly large, and they remain at 0.5-1 inch lengths for the duration of their unusually long lives.
A silverfish can live for as long as eight years, and after complicating a bizarrely complex mating ritual, they can reproduce many times in this span. However, female silverfish typically only lay 100 eggs or less in the course of their lives, including 60 eggs or less at a given time.
This is much less than more belligerent pests, but still enough to rapidly create an out-of-control infestation. Depending on the level of moisture and other factors, their eggs may hatch in as little as two weeks or as long as two months. Nymphs have the same body shape and habits as adults but have several physical differences. For instance, they lack the silver-blue, metallic gleam that people associate with the species and are considerably smaller.
In ideal (for the silverfish, not for you) circumstances, they will mature and be ready to reproduce in as little as three months. However, this can vary wildly depending on levels of moisture and the warmth of the climate. In cooler, drier climates, it might take as much as two years for a silverfish to mature. If you live in such a climate, you’re less likely to suffer from a silverfish infection and won’t need to exterminate them as rigorously or as often.
If your climate is favorable for silverfish, though, it’s possible for one female to produce 60 eggs that become mature adults in four months. With 30 of those offspring laying 60 eggs of their own, you can end up with almost 2,000 silverfish in less than a year!
It’s also worth noting that they’re one of the most primitive insects still alive, as scientists have discovered silverfish fossils as old as 400 million years. There are good reasons for their longevity, which also make them difficult to find and exterminate.
Silverfish have a strong sense of self-preservation and are extremely shy creatures. They’re nocturnal insects that avoid going out into lit areas and become active at night. Additionally, they prefer secluded, moist places, and will avoid being noticed by you if at all possible.
If you see one silverfish in a lit, dry part of the home, it’s likely there are hundreds more you don’t see. They’re not quite as bold as, say, cockroaches and you’re unlikely to flip on a kitchen light and see hundreds of the creatures go skittering away. This makes an infestation less unpleasant, but also much harder to detect.
Where Do Silverfish Come From?
In the outdoors, silverfish live in moist, secluded places. For instance, this might be beneath tree bark, rocks, or leaf coverage. There are a number of ways they can enter your home. On the one hand, they might crawl in via the foundation or other opening. It’s also possible to bring silverfish into your own home by mistake. They can infest books, paper, and other household items that you can take into your home without a second thought.
Once silverfish enter your home, they tend to settle in the same areas. Silverfish of all ages, but particularly the nymphs thrive in moist areas. As a result, it’s common for them to congregate in the corners and cabinets of the bathroom. However, a bathroom might not be ideal for them with regard to avoiding contact. The reclusive instincts of silverfish also drive them to attics, basements, and wall voids.
Attics are particularly common hiding places for the pests due to the low usage of an attic and the presence of things they can eat. Dust, old documents, pictures, and other miscellaneous items will provide silverfish the nourishment they need to live and reproduce until you have hundreds or thousands of silverfish.
Are Silverfish Harmful or Dangerous?
While there are a handful of myths about silverfish attacking people one way or another, they’re only myths.
Silverfish cannot bite people. While they do have jaws that they use to eat food, they’re much too weak to penetrate the skin of a human being. Other urban legends about silverfish laying eggs in people’s ears or otherwise crawling up bodily cavities are also false, much like myths about eating spiders in your sleep or earwigs laying eggs in ears.
The insects do not spread disease or correlate to a dirty home, either. There are no known diseases or parasites that may transmit between silverfish and human beings. For that matter, silverfish aren’t dangerous to pets either. If your cat or dog eats a silverfish, they’ll be fine. However, you shouldn’t rely on Fido or Felix for pest control; eating any substantial number of silverfish bugs will have negative consequences. The mildest symptoms start out at stomach ache and loss of appetite, but vomiting and attendant symptoms may also occur.
There is one exception to the rule that silverfish cannot harm people. That is, human beings and pets might have an allergic reaction to the byproducts of a silverfish infestation. Their black pellet feces, yellow excrement, and skin molts can cause an allergic reaction in some cases. It’s also possible for these substances to mix with existing dust and allergens, which will make existing allergic reactions worse.
Typically, the symptoms are limited to mucus buildup, coughing, and an itchy throat. However, the severity of an allergic reaction naturally depends on the sensitivity of the individual. What serves as a minor irritant to someone with minor allergies can be much more unpleasant for someone with more severe reactions. If you, your family, or anyone who often visits your home has asthma, then it’s imperative to find and exterminate silverfish.
So far, it sounds like silverfish are relatively benign if you don’t have allergies. Truthfully, they are only a direct hazard to people who are sensitive to their presence in this way. However, the simple fact of having an insect infestation can be repulsive, not to mention the property damage that silverfish can cause.
Silverfish can destroy all sorts of valuable possessions by consuming and excreting upon them. Imagine going up to your attic to look at an old photo album, only to find it ruined by a silverfish alternative.
Alternatively, maybe you collect books or have a lovely wardrobe you’re proud of. In these cases, silverfish will also be a nightmare for you. They can consume and degrade virtually any starchy, fibrous material with any carbohydrate or protein content.
What Do Silverfish Eat?
Silverfish are quite versatile in what they eat and can consume just about anything. What they’re looking for is primarily starches and carbohydrates, although they can also eat proteins. In nature, they seek out plant-based starches and carbohydrates. This can be decaying plant materials, grass, leaves, or virtually anything else. Rather than being hunters, the ecological niche that they fill is scavenging and aiding decomposition.
Meals that you’ve left out, stray pellets of pet food, and similar items might be targets for silverfish. Other refined, carb-rich food products such as flour, sugar, and cereal products are also sure to attract silverfish.
However, they can eat virtually any compound that contains the nutrients they rely on. Clothes, particularly clothes with any sort of food stains or residue on them are principal victims of silverfish infestations. Carpets, rugs, paper products, and other fabrics can also become food for silverfish.
Even the most rudimentary carbohydrates can sustain silverfish. Dust is primarily human skin and other forms of organic residue, which means that silverfish will never be hungry in a dusty home. While they do need some amount of protein to survive, this is never hard for them to come by. In the wild, they primarily scavenge dead insects to meet their protein needs. Ironically, the very remains of dead or injured silverfish will become a food source that helps maintain the infestation.
What Attracts Silverfish?
Available food sources play a key role in attracting silverfish. However, the bugs will go hunting a considerable distance from their den while looking for potential food sources. They can scavenge dust, paper, crumbs, and other relatively imperceptible sources of sustenance from around your entire home.
Since their diets are so flexible, food is not quite the key factor when it comes to attracting a silverfish infestation. Rather, the main factor that will attract them is the presence of a dark, warm, moist area to reside. Silverfish only thrive in areas of relative humidity between 75% and 95% and instinctively seek out enclosed, secluded places. This species survived for 400 million years by being too fast for other insects to eat it, and by being too lowkey and irrelevant for larger species to notice it.
One typical place where silverfish live is in the bathroom, which is sure to fulfill their requirements for moisture. The drawback for them here is that the bathroom is frequently used and typically well-lit, so an infestation is sure to be hiding beneath your nose. Consider looking beneath and behind appliances, underneath the bathtub, and in cabinets.
Another issue to consider is that some people are prone to leaving magazines, newspapers, or trash in their bathroom. This is a poor choice because it provides them secluded spaces to hide during the day. Not only are you giving them a little home within your home, but you’re also providing them an easily accessible food source. Consider tossing out or at least reorganizing any collection of throwaway magazines and bathroom reading material you’ve built up over the years.
A bathroom naturally meets a silverfish’s requirement for moisture, while the appliances and items laying about create the other conditions that attract them. On the other hand, attics, basements, and kitchen cupboards automatically provide their desire for seclusion. When one of these areas is excessively damp, it’s likely to attract silverfish.
Basements tend to collect moisture by nature of their location, but other low-use parts of the home can easily become excessively damp. Boxes and refuse will also make it much easier for a part of your home to fulfill their needs for an environment they can thrive in. Even if your basement or attic as a whole isn’t damp enough to play host to a silverfish infestation, undisturbed piles of old items with poor air circulation certainly can.
Generally speaking, it’s possible to prevent a silverfish infestation from occurring by making your home inhospitable to them. Ensuring a low level of humidity and keeping your home neat and organized will deprive them of the conditions they need to survive.
How to Get Rid of Silverfish
There are many ways to get rid of silverfish. However, silverfish extermination in and of itself might only amount to treating the symptoms of the problem. If your home still holds the combination of circumstances that allowed an infestation to thrive, then you’re likely to deal with a new infestation in the future. Now that you know what attracts silverfish, you can start tackling the root of the problem by depriving them of food and shelter.
Your first step should consist of depriving silverfish of food. If you’ve identified droppings around the kitchen and pantry, then the bugs are getting into those areas to eat. Consider ways to store food that doesn’t allow pests to gain access. For instance, use ties to close bagged foods tightly enough that they’re safe. Additionally, put foods such as flour, sugar, and cereals in jars with sealable lids. Once you’ve eliminated obvious sources of food, you’ve begun the process of starving them out.
Next, look for unconventional food sources. This includes clothes, paper, and other fabrics. These items don’t offer as much sustenance as sugar and carby foods, but they can still maintain a silverfish infestation. Sprinkle the path towards them with your choice of repellents, such as essential oils or diatomaceous earth.
Finally, perform a deep-clean of your home. Silverfish can even subsist on dust if better food sources aren’t available. It’s not necessary to make your home spotless, but there shouldn’t be any large, noticeable buildup of dust. This doesn’t only apply to the areas of your home your family frequents, either. You should also check unused rooms, the attic, and the basement for dust and other debris that silverfish can feed on.
Now that you’ve minimized any sources of food that might attract silverfish, you can target their other requirement. Begin seeking out areas of high moisture, and you’re likely to find the insects congregating there. Search the nooks and crannies of your bathroom and kitchen, then explore the more isolated, dark areas in your home. Examine your pipes where possible, as well. Not only will a leak create the conditions for silverfish to thrive, but they’ll also be the least of your problems.
Excessive moisture and enabling factors such as poor circulation can also be harbingers of dangerous molds and other pestilences. This is another reason why it’s important to attack the causes of a silverfish infestation, rather than simply eradicating the bugs. A plague of silverfish is often a symptom of an underlying, enduring problem with excessive dampness in parts of your home. If you don’t treat the factors that caused your silverfish problem, they’ll return and you might find other problems arise with time as well.
Once you’ve tackled the moisture and sustenance problems, the silverfish population should rapidly dwindle. However, these insects can be quite hardy. Denying them food sources and dark, moist hiding places is sufficient to prevent a severe infestation, but it won’t wipe them out completely. What prevents a problem won’t necessarily cure it, so to speak.
If you want to quickly get rid of your silverfish problem, you’ll need to consider a proactive solution for killing silverfish. The ideal approach in how to eradicate silverfish is a combination of denying food and moisture while poisoning or trapping them. If you can execute this strategy to get rid of your silverfish problem, then you’ll be rid of them for good.
Home Remedies For Silverfish Removal
Silverfish reproduce more slowly than most pest insects, so killing them outright may be a practical way to keep an infestation under control. If you’re interested in solving the problem on your own, there are a handful of options you can take.
There are several potent, silverfish-killing poisons to choose from if that suits your needs. On the other hand, there are many reasons to avoid such solutions. If you have children, pets, or concern for your own health, you might want to consider a safer solution to your silverfish problem.
In this case, you have no shortage of options. There are non-toxic, environmentally-friendly substances that kill silverfish just as effectively as poisons do. It’s also easy to make traps for silverfish that can cull their population or repel them with a number of compounds they find repulsive. You might also destroy the areas that they use for dens and shelter, or physically block their access to the interior of your home. Choosing the right solution will vary depending on your exact circumstances.
Boric acid is one of the most widely used, versatile poisons for killing insects. However, it is toxic if you inhale or ingest it. The best situation to use boric acid is when you’re able to find the areas that the silverfish are spending the day in. Then, you can put it in a spray bottle, and coat their paths with boric acid. Spraying directly into cracks, crevices, and holes that silverfish traverse or lay in can also be terrifically effective.
It’s also possible to sprinkle boric acid around cupboards, bookshelves, and other silverfish destinations before going to bed. However, this can present a health risk if you have children or pets. If you can mitigate this by making absolutely certain that your kids and animals stay away, then it can be an effective means of reversing your silverfish infestation.
On the other hand, it may not be worth the risk of using it in areas that you and your loved ones typically traverse. Another of the key weaknesses of boric acid is that it becomes useless when excessively wet. Given the nature of silverfish dens, it may not always do the job but it usually will. Consider using boric acid in remote, little-used areas and supplementing it with diatomaceous earth in more lived-in areas.
Diatomaceous earth is a peculiar, non-toxic form of silverfish control. It’s an all-natural powder that’s produced from the fossilized remnants of diatoms, a type of algae. Some health gurus swear by it as a dietary supplement, which should allay any fears you have that it’s toxic. While it’s perfectly safe for humans and pets, it’s devastating for silverfish. A recurrent theme in this guide has been the importance of moisture to silverfish: they need it to live, and constantly seek out water.
When they head to dry areas to seek out food, they only survive thanks to a waxy outer coating. This enables their body to hold in moisture during these journeys. Contact with diatomaceous earth immediately dissolves this coating, which causes rapid moisture loss and death. This high rate of effectiveness combined with its non-toxicity makes for a perfect silverfish killer. Sprinkling a thin line of diatomaceous earth along bookshelves, cupboards, and wardrobes can kill silverfish before they begin eating your belongings.
If you use diatomaceous earth, you’ll need to be consistent and replace it each night before bed. After a few days to a week of successful, well-placed application of this substance, you should see considerable results.
Essential Oils and Other Natural Repellants
There are many all-natural, organic, and non-toxic compounds that repel silverfish. While they aren’t going to kill them, they can help you starve out an infestation by repelling the insects from major food sources. The oils and aroma of bay leaves make them a useful way to get rid of silverfish in certain areas. Crush the leaves into small pieces or a powder, then place these pieces in the paths they frequent.
Essential oils work in much the same way. Lavender, citrus, and many other essential oils will repel silverfish thanks to their overwhelming aroma. Compared to diatomaceous earth and other effective silverfish killers, bay leaves and essential oils might seem useless. However, they work excellently in combination with traps. By preventing silverfish from accessing your pantry, books, and other food sources, you’ll make them relatively more likely to stumble into traps you’ve set.
While silverfish are fairly elusive, they’re also extremely predictable. This means that you have several ways to go about trapping them and getting rid of them, even non-lethally if you care to. For instance, you might spritz some water onto a newspaper with a spray bottle. Then, wrap up the newspaper and place it in an area where you know that the silverfish gather. It will draw silverfish thanks to the fact it serves as a shelter, as well as a food source.
After a few days, pick up the newspaper and quickly toss it in a bag. Ideally, you should do this in the middle of the day when the bugs are inactive. By putting them in a bag, you’ll prevent them from skittering away and finding crevices to hide in; they’re extremely fast, and you’re certainly not going to catch many of them. At this point, you can go ahead and toss the newspaper in the trash, burn it, or set the bugs free away from your home if you’re a hardcore pacifist.
Another way to trap silverfish involves masking tape, a mason jar, and a piece of bread. The insects are poor climbers, and glass doesn’t have enough friction for them to climb it. You can use this against them by wrapping a mason jar with masking tape and placing a piece of bread inside it. While entering the jar will be rather easy, escaping it will be completely impossible. Placing many of these traps around the areas that silverfish often find food, such as your pantry and bookshelf will make the trap more effective.
One of the easiest options for how to get rid of silverfish is using a set of storebought traps. Numerous manufacturers produce and sell custom-made traps that lure and poison them. Typically, their active ingredient is boric acid, and its strengths and pitfalls are mostly present in traps. Kids and animals can still get into the poison just as easily, so caution is still necessary.
There are a few advantages to boric acid traps vs boric acid itself, however. For one, the poison is better sheltered from the elements. As a result, it will retain its usefulness better in highly damp areas than boric acid from a spray bottle. Over time, the acid will remain dry and catch more bugs as they walk by and wander into the trap. A few well-placed traps can go a long way towards exterminating your silverfish infestation.
Dehumidify Their Dens
If you can find where the silverfish are coming from, then you might be able to deprive them of the moisture they need to live. Seal any leaking pipes or faucets, cover any cracks where water seeps in from, and otherwise minimize water exposure. If you know they’re living in your bathroom, then see what you can do to avoid water from the sink or shower standing indefinitely.
Finally, purchase a dehumidifier and use it to sap the moisture from the air. As the moisture in the air dips, the environment will become increasingly unlivable for the silverfish. They rely on the moisture contained in their body to journey into drier areas, and they’ll be unable to live in your home without a moist, dark area to spend their inactive hours. Not to mention, this has the tremendous benefit of treating the root of the problem.
While killing part or even the entire silverfish population minimizes and delays the problem, denying them a place to stay in your home also prevents their return. In addition to eliminating your silverfish infestation, it will reduce moisture-related risks such as mold growth.
Seal Cracks and Holes
Silverfish bugs often enter and traverse the home through tiny cracks, crevices, and other areas. If you can find where they’re hiding, you can trap them by covering the entrance with plaster and allowing them to starve. If they’re entering your home from outdoors via a hole, then sealing that entrance will also protect you from other pests entering your home.
In many cases, silverfish and other bugs enter homes and apartments via air vents. Obviously, you can’t seal vents with plaster. However, you can cover them with a mesh screen that allows for proper airflow while also keeping silverfish out of your home.
How to Get Rid of Silverfish in Different Areas
The exact approach and options for how to get rid of silverfish vary depending on the area of infestation. Your options also vary depending on where you live, such as in a house or an apartment.
Kill Silverfish In Your Home or Commercial Property
If you have a severe silverfish infestation in a standalone property that you own, there are virtually no restrictions to your options. If you’re impatient, then self-fumigation or hiring a professional to handle fumigating is a nuclear option. If you leave for a few hours and make sure there’s nothing on the property you don’t want dead, you’ll return to a pest-free building. You also have free reign to modify the property as needed, which is another benefit.
Kill Silverfish In Your Apartment or Rental
Working in a property within a complex is more difficult. Fumigation will be difficult or impossible to arrange, and the source of the infestation may be inaccessible to you. It’s possible that your neighbor in the next unit might be the one who’s created an inviting home for silverfish. In this case, you’ll want to emphasize making your living area or business inhospitable for the bugs. Combine this approach with repellants and physical covers over possible entry points, and you may be able to solve your infestation problem.
Eradicate Silverfish in Bathrooms
Since bathrooms are one routinely used part of the home, it’s easier to eliminate a silverfish infestation here. While a certain amount of humidity is unavoidable in the bathroom, it shouldn’t be high enough to foster this common pest. Eliminate clutter, trash, and piled-up paper or towels and examine the corners and secluded spaces of the room.
Denying silverfish secluded, dark corners to hide may be enough to drive out a bathroom infestation, but using a dehumidifier is also a good touch. Using boric acid in the bathroom is a bad idea if you have children or pets, but traps and natural repellants are still good choices in this case.
How to Exterminate Silverfish in the Attic and Basement
Some of the details vary in a basement infestation vs an attic infestation. For instance, basements tend to be warmer, more humid, and may have cracks and exposure to the earth. Attics won’t necessarily face these conditions, but they’re still appealing focal points for a silverfish infestation due to the broad similarities they have.
Both attics and basements tend to be dark, dusty, secluded spaces that homeowners use for storage purposes. Not to mention, the precious keepsakes, photographs, journals, or other items that people often store in them are practically a buffet for one thousand silverfish. However, the remoteness of attics and basements means that you can generally have a field day with boric acid. After going through the standard process of vacuuming up excess dust and eliminating clutter, you may be able to find where they’re hiding and treat it with the poison. With luck, that will be the end of your silverfish woes.
How to Get Rid of Silverfish in Wardrobe
You’re hardly going to want to use dangerous poisons on your clothes. If you’re finding silverfish in your wardrobe, you should use a non-toxic repellant and focus on killing them at the source instead. Using essential oils to get rid of silverish on clothes is a good choice since the aroma will prevent them from attacking your clothes with no ill effects.
A little bit goes a long way, and you don’t necessarily want to walk around smelling like the essence of thyme. Sprinkling a few drops of essential oils around articles of clothing and the wardrobe should create a potent repellant effect that will drive the silverfish elsewhere.
How to Get Rid of Silverfish For Good
Most people’s first impulse for pest control is to handle it on their own, and for understandable reasons. However, the traces a silverfish leaves behind are quite hard to notice when their numbers are small. If you’re seeing evidence of a silverfish infestation such as holes in clothes and yellowing on paper, it’s likely that the infection has already spread wildly out of control.
In this case, you may or may not be able to tackle it on your own. Silverfish aren’t so dangerous or annoying as pests like bedbugs, so you can afford to take time in the extermination process. On the other hand, uprooting a deep, severe infestation is going to be deeply time-consuming. Buying traps and a dehumidifier can already grow expensive, not to mention the time commitment of handling silverfish extermination on your own.
Hiring an expert to handle your silverfish infestation is often the best choice. With their experience and knowledge in dealing with the pest, they’ll know how to get rid of silverfish quickly and efficiently. Thanks to past experience, it’ll be an easy matter for them to find the source of the infestation and the circumstances that created it.
Safe, careful application of the latest pesticides and traps will eliminate the infestation. From there, a pest control expert will also be able to inform you as to why the infestation occurred and help you prevent it from happening again. Doing it yourself is always tempting, but the time that you’ll save and the experience you’ll benefit from make an expert more than worth it. If you’re considering a pest control professional in Georgia or Florida, then give Next Gen Pest Solutions a call.
Call Nextgen Pest Solutions
Nextgen Pest Solutions is one of the top exterminators in the South. They’re familiar with all manner of infestations and can tackle any problem in the safest, most environmentally friendly way. Customers throughout Georgia and Florida put their faith in Nextgen Pest Solutions because they know that this company always gets the job done right.