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Silverfish

Silverfish can be destructive pests for homeowners and businesses. You can fight back against these insects by learning about their habits, what attracts them and the methods used to eradicate them.

 
Facts
Control

What Are the Signs of Silverfish?

Bed Bug Bites

A silverfish infestation can be tough to recognize since these pests are primarily nocturnal. Still, you may spot these clues.

  • You'll see them: The most obvious sign of a silverfish bug infestation in your home or business is that you will see them. Most often, they will be lingering in the dark near a source of moisture, such as a sink, faucet, toilet or bathtub. When the lights come on, these pests will freeze for a moment and then dash away to hide. Silverfish can hide in very thin cracks and crevices. Their low build also means they can easily slide under most objects that would otherwise appear to be in direct contact with a floor.
  
  • Holes in Paper: Silverfish damage is most evident on books and other paper products, where pages will show fairly large holes, often with a scattering of smaller holes around the edge of the larger one. Silverfish can be a big problem for people who collect paper products, including newspapers, documents, comic books and other vintage paper products. These pests particularly love stamp collections for their combination of paper and glue!
  
  • Yellow stains and black specks: Further evidence of silverfish is a yellowing around the damaged area and pepper-like specks, which are the bug’s excrement.

How Can I Control a Silverfish Infestation?

It can be unsettling to have silverfish in your home or business, but there are things you can do to protect your household goods from these destructive pests:

  • Dry Up: The best way to contain a silverfish population is to severely cut their access to moisture. With that in mind, seal up leaky pipes and dry out consistently wet areas with air conditioners, heaters, fans or dehumidifiers.
  
  • Seal Off: If you have a lot of items or food that may be appetizing to silverfish, seal them in airtight containers or plastic bags.
  
  • Separate: Some objects may be too big to put in containers to protect them from silverfish. Try putting these on a metal shelf and wrapping the feet of the shelf with double-sided tape, which will catch any bug trying to investigate the shelf contents.
  
  • Eliminate: If possible, try to eliminate any food sources that the silverfish may be eating. For example, dispose of old newspapers and remove wallpaper they are infesting.
  

How Can I Get Rid of Silverfish?

There are a number of options for getting rid of a silverfish infestation, all of which are easy to do for even an inexperienced DIYer.

  • Spot Treat - When you locate silverfish in your home or business, spot treat the immediate area with TERRO® Home Insect Killer. This insecticide will kill silverfish and dozens of other insects. Its spray nozzle allows you to treat the cracks and crevices where silverfish hide.
  
  • Hit Them With Dust - TERRO® Ant Dust allows you to treat wall voids, cracks, crevices, pipes and more. Just spread this dust around lightly and uniformly, and wait as the silverfish cross into it. TERRO® Ant Dust remains effective for up to eight months.
  
  • Dry Them Out: Another way to stop silverfish is to spread OMRI Listed® diatomaceous earth around their activity area. This powder is made of fossilized algae, which is deadly to insects that crawl through it or ingest it, causing them to dehydrate.
  

How Can I Stop Silverfish from Entering My Home or Business?

Bed Bugs In Home

The small size of these insects can make it difficult to keep them from entering a property, but it can be done. Doing so will also cut off many other insects from accessing your house. Here is a checklist:

  • Seal off the spaces around pipes and utility conduits with caulk.
  • Seal cracks and crevices in your walls and floors with a filler material.
  • Minimize attractants, including access to moisture and food.
  • Vacuum regularly to reduce attractants while also removing these bugs and their eggs.
  • Keep the humidity low. Most silverfish species prefer highly humid environments.
  • Clear the perimeter of your home or business of debris that offer them shelter, including leaves, trash, mulch and other areas that are perpetually damp.

Are There Different Kinds of Silverfish?

There are four species of insects commonly grouped together and/or considered “silverfish.” These insects behave similarly to one another and do similar damage to household goods, including carpets, books, paper products and food meant for human consumption. They are:

  • Firebrats (Thermobia domestica)- Living up to their name, firebrats prefer warmer temperatures than most silverfish. They lay up to 50 eggs at one time.
  
  • Common Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina)- This species has a worldwide reach and is described in detail here.
  
  • Gray Silverfish, also called the Longtailed Silverfish (Ctenolepisma longicaudata): Found in the Midwest, South and California, these silverfish are dull gray in color.
  
  • Four-lined Silverfish (Ctenolepisma quadriseriata): These silverfish have dark and light scales, which create the appearance of four lines along their back.
     
Common Species