What to Know About Silverfish Problems In Your Home

Whether you’ve dealt with pest problems in the past or if you’re brand new to your home, you’ve likely come across a silverfish at one time or another. These incredible common nocturnal pests love to hide out in warm and dark places both indoors and out, even when we’re careful to keep the house spotless.

Luckily, silverfish are barely a threat to our health and safety. They are, however, a great nuisance and can play a role in spreading bacteria throughout countertops, eating spaces, and even our food. In short, you do not want silverfish multiplying in your home.

Since silverfish love warm, moist climates, so you’re likely to find them all across the US depending on the season. When it is not comfortable for them to remain outdoors, they are talented intruders, finding comfort and safety inside any dark and damp corners of your living space.

In this guide, we’ll explore how to identify a silverfish, signs of a silverfish infestation, and when it’s time to call a professional to stop it in its tracks.

How to Spot a Silverfish

These quickly crawling creatures are easy to mix up with some other common home intruders. They are often mistaken for house centipedes or even small cockroaches. However, there are plenty of ways to note their common features.

Silverfish have two distinguishing features right in their name: they are typically silver or gray in color and their bodies are shaped like a flat, pointed oval, a bit like a fish. In some cases, they may appear more translucent or take on a tan and brown color. Unlike centipedes, silverfish only have six legs, have a set of antennae on either side of their bodies, and are only about a half-inch long.

It can be difficult to spot a silverfish for more than a few moments, however. Even though they cannot fly—and do not have wings—silverfish can move very quickly and only come out at night. If you move an object or piece of furniture where a silverfish is hiding during the day, they will quickly run back into the shadows.

Why It’s Hard to Kill a Silverfish

There are a few obvious reasons why silverfish have stuck around for hundreds of millions of years. As one of the most primitive creatures of the planet, the resilient insects can survive without food for very long periods of time. 

They also are not picky about what they eat, filling up on everything from starches and carbohydrates, paper and clothing, and even dead insects. Their adaptability means that you can’t simply cut them off their basic needs to get rid of an infestation.

The Ideal Silverfish Environment

One of the keys to discouraging pests is by eliminating conditions where they thrive. Unfortunately for us, silverfish enjoy environments that are very common in our homes, including in:

  • Basements
  • Roofs (specifically in shingles)
  • Attics
  • Closets
  • Under beds
  • Behind furniture and appliance
  • In storage boxes and bags
  • Throughout garages and sheds during warm weather.

Silverfish prefer areas that fall between 70 and 90 degrees, meaning that homes act as a perfect escape from harsh weather outside. They also need extreme humidity, typically above 75 percent to stay alive for an extended period of time. This caveat can be the key to eliminating silverfish from your home, especially if you live in a year-round high-humid zone.

They can, however, live for a short period of time in a large range of temperatures and levels of humidity, so this can make it difficult to eradicate the entire population in your home for good.

How Silverfish Get Indoors

Though silverfish can creep inside through any traditional crack in your perimeter, they are notorious for breaking in through the shingles of a roof. Wooden shake shingles are known to retain moisture and can grow mold, a prime food source and the perfect environment for silverfish. 

The eaves of your home, also known as the soffits, are also notorious entryways for silverfish. Any wet area that collects water could be a prime spot for silverfish to gather and look for ways into your living space.

Where Silverfish Live Outdoors

In their natural habits, you are likely to find silverfish in similar dark and damp locations. These may include:

  • Bird nests
  • Animal dens
  • Tree bark
  • Under logs or decaying grass and mulch

Just as they enjoy while indoors, humidity is necessary for their survival. If your area is experiencing a drought, you may be more likely to find silverfish hiding inside your home for warmth and moisture.

Silverfish Do Not Live in Water

Despite their names, silverfish have no relation to fish themselves and do not live in water or drains. You do not need to worry about silverfish hiding in pooled water in your basement or bathroom, though the common humidity from these spaces is ideal for both living and laying eggs.

Silverfish Diet

Silverfish are not widely picky about what they eat, but their food does have to fall into several categories. These include:

  • Protein like meat or dead insects
  • Carbohydrates like oats, flour, and cereals
  • Starches from paper, cardboard, and even insulation
  • Mold, especially when growing in damp areas of your home

For this reason, you may be more likely to find these insects in boxes of cereal and oatmeal in your pantry, so it’s important to keep these items tightly sealed. If they need to, they will eat the cells that make up book bindings, paper, and other glued items and can even ruin documents. 

Luckily, silverfish are not known for eating or burrowing through wood the way that termites and carpenter ants can, but they can affect pantry and food items in your home, heightening the risk of spreading disease.

The Silverfish Life Cycle

So, how long do silverfish live and how much do you need to work about a quickly growing infestation? Like many other insects on our list, there are three stages in the silverfish life cycle. These include:

  • Eggs
  • Nymphs
  • Adults

Silverfish are capable of laying eggs throughout the year depending on how many times they mate, but they do not lay as many eggs as other insect species. Females will typically lay 1-3 eggs at one time but then can lay up to 20 in one cluster over a period of a few days. These eggs will often live inside cracks and holes in your home, wherever they are safest and have access to a warm, humid climate.

After hatching, silverfish nymphs will molt through many phases of growth over the next three to four months. This does depend on the level of heat and humidity. Their growth stage slows down the colder the climate.

Once they are adults, the silverfish can live for nearly eight years on average, a strikingly long time compared to many other home pests.

Are Silverfish Dangerous?

These creepy insects may gross us out, but luckily, they are rarely harmful to humans or pets. Silverfish are not known to bite humans and rarely damage property to the same extent as termites. 

They also are not known to carry disease, but can carry bacteria throughout our living space. For example, if a silverfish spends time in the kitchen, they can compromise the safety of the food. Silverfish are known for burrowing into cardboard boxes in the pantry, bringing potential bacteria to these items.

Additionally, silverfish do not live in large hives or nests like social insects like bees and ants. Though they can reproduce and survive in hard conditions, you are unlikely to have a sudden silverfish infestation without warning.

How to Prevent Silverfish Inside Your Home

Silverfish may be common across the US, but there are plenty of ways to make them stay away from your home. The first step is to learn if the silverfish are even present, and if you’re dealing with an infestation or just a lone visitor from outside.

Set Traps

Silverfish are nocturnal, so you’re rarely going to spot them out and about in the light or during the day. This makes it difficult to determine the size of your problem. Set adhesive traps in areas where you’re concerned silverfish are hiding out. You can purchase these simple traps in any pest control area, since they are typically built to catch other large insects like centipedes and cockroaches.

Control the Humidity

The number-one trick for controlling silverfish in your home is lowering the space’s humidity level. When the humidity in rooms like your basement, attic, or in large closets crosses that ideal threshold for silverfish, you can end up with a problem.

Use a dehumidifier and remove any signs of leaks of pooling water. If your home is prone to flooding, be sure to update your sump pump and turn on the dehumidifier after a storm.

You can also control indoor humidity by increasing the ventilation in each room and area of your home. This is particularly important in well-insulated rooms like your attic that often suffer from high humidity.

Cut Down on Clutter

Like all insects, silverfish need a dark place to hide that goes undisturbed for a long period of time. Avoid piling boxes, clothing, or other loose clutter on the floor or up against the walls. Without a place to burrow, you’re more likely to spot the random silverfish that makes its way indoors.

Secure Your Home

Weather-proof your open cracks and holes in your eaves that could welcome silverfish inside. They can also make their way inside through screens or unsealed door frames. Since they travel at night, you are unlikely to spot them until they’ve made the transition.

As we mentioned above, check your shingled roofs and the sealing of your soffits for silverfish or entry points for other pests. These key areas can frequently become damaged over time, during storms, or when other large pests build a home. Regularly check your eave and roof for possible signs of pest damage. 

Vacuum For Safety

Overly vacuuming your area will remove silverfish from hard-to-clean places, especially in the corners and cracks that are hard to reach with other methods.

Close Up Your Cupboards

Since silverfish love the sweets and starches in your cupboard, opt for sealed containers for your cereals, pastas, and flour. If you sense that you have a silverfish infestation, you can also seal your boxes and containers in zip-loc bags for extra protection.

Control Additional Pest Problems

Silverfish may be a sign that other pests are also living in your home. Since dead insects are on their list of preferred meals, they may set up a home where they have constant access to other bugs. Eliminate other pests or work with a professional to also cut down on common silverfish prey.

How to Get Rid of Silverfish

If you’re concerned about one or two silverfish, removing them and placing them outside can often do the trick. However, their presence could be a sign that other family members are near. Protect the perimeter of your home in a few simple ways. 

Residual Insecticide

Since silverfish are difficult to spot in the daylight, and so insecticides that remain on a surface for a longer period of time may be best for catching these persistent bugs. Carefully spray the residual poison around the eaves and attic entryways to keep them from crossing inside. 

Baits and Poisons

For any current silverfish in your home, you can also set baited traps in the trouble areas of your home. These baits will lure silverfish to their usual hiding spots with poisonous food, typically in dust form. 

Be sure to read the instructions carefully before handling chemicals on your home, especially if you have young children or pets in your home.

Hiring A Professional Silverfish Exterminator

If you suspect that a silverfish infestation is growing in your home, the local experts at Terminix can help you identify and eliminate the problem in no time. We begin with a free consultation to get to the bottom of your silverfish infestation and build a customized plan based on each home’s unique needs.

Throughout the pest control process, not only will we get rid of silverfish quickly, but they will take preventative measures and make suggestions to keep pests from coming back. Terminix’s guaranteed services provide immediate care in the rare instance that the infestation should return for the entirety of your contract.

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