How to Deal with a Silverfish Infestation
Banish these common household pests for good.
In a perfect world, your home would be completely free of any unwanted insect visitors. But we don't live in a perfect world—and unfortunately, infestations can be fairly common, especially if your invader is the silverfish. But what, exactly, are these critters? How do you know if they've invaded your home—or worse, if you have a full-blown infestation on your hands? To help your rid your home of this pest—a must, since they actually attract friends—we tapped two exterminators for their best tips. Ahead, how to deal if you discover these bugs in your space.
Silverfish are silver, but they (obviously) aren't fish.
These common insects get their name from their colored scales, which are light gray or silver, and the fishlike wiggling movements they make, explains Fred Wiley, owner of Invader Pest Management. They measure between 12 and 18 millimeters in length, and have a flattened body tapered at the rear, adds Alice Sinia, M.Sc. Ph.D., the Quality Assurance Manager of Regulatory/Lab Services at Orkin Canada: "One of their main identifying features is the presence of three long appendages at the end of the abdomen."
These critters are scavenger feeders—which means they like the pantry.
"Silverfish are generally scavenger feeders that will eat just about anything available," says Sinia. "When living among humans, they often eat common household items and frequently invade kitchen pantries." While they prefer areas of high humidity, they have a knack for getting into just about every nook and cranny. The reason? "Being excellent climbers, they can be found anywhere in the house, including on all floor levels," she continues. This is an issue if you're battling an infestation, since silverfish can infiltrate a variety of home-wide items. "Silverfish can contaminate food, stain clothing, destroy books, and are generally a maddening presence in the home," adds Sinia.
In addition to the damage they can do on their own, silverfish may also draw other creepy, crawly creatures. "They are the preferred food of other insects like spiders and centipedes, so their presence can attract these other pests," says Wiley.
Think you're dealing with an infestation? Look for damage.
The biggest indicator that you have a silverfish infestation? The damage they leave in their wake. "Silverfish feed on starch-rich materials like wallpaper, photographs, and book bindings," says Wiley. If you notice small chew marks on paper, cardboard, or other items with glue (which is rich in protein, a silverfish favorite), chances are, you have a problem. Seeing remnants of the silverfish themselves is also a red flag: "Signs of an infestation include molted skins, yellow marks, scales, or feces," adds Wiley.
Dry out your home—and then call a professional.
Silverfish are attracted to humidity, so one of your best lines of defense against them is keeping your home dry. "To avoid any silverfish infestations, homeowners should keep rooms cool, clean, and dry; vacuum voids, cracks, and crevices frequently; and use dehumidifiers to lower humidity," says Sinia.
But if you already have a silverfish infestation? It's best to call in the professionals. "Silverfish have a slow reproduction rate, but can survive without food for a year—with a lifespan of up to eight years," says Sinia. "If you have a silverfish infestation, it is a sign of a long-term problem that requires the help of a professional pest control service."