What are Silverfish?

Silverfish are one of the most common pest insects in the world. They’re sometimes called bristletails or paper fish, even though their scientific name is Lepisma saccharinum.
Silverfish are voracious eaters who subsist on foods that are high in starches. They especially love paper, and will eat through boxes, books, and other household materials.
These insects are silver or gray in color, and their bodies are covered in tiny scales, which are often described as fish-like.
The body is broadest at the head, and tapers down to the posterior end, where there are three long appendages, each covered in bristles. One of the appendages runs straight out from the end of the body, while the other two jut out from the left and right sides of the torso at ninety-degree angles.
Silverfish are about 0.5”-1” in length and can live as long as eight years. The insects are nocturnal and are rarely seen during the daytime hours.

What Attracts Silverfish to my House?

If you have a silverfish infestation, you’re probably wondering where the bugs came from.

Here are the things that will attract silverfish to your house:

Proper habitat: In their natural environments, silverfish live in moist, well-protected areas, like under logs and rocks, or in leaf litter. In a household environment, though, they tend to live behind furniture, in books, in basements, or near sinks. They need moisture to survive and will establish themselves anywhere moisture levels in your home are high.
Food sources: Like all insects, silverfish need to eat. These bugs rely on starchy food sources like fibers, sugars, fabrics, grains, and dried goods – like cereals and pet food. Part of the reason that silverfish are so difficult to get rid of is that, in nature, they eat almost anything, from starches and carbohydrates to protein.
In their natural environment, they eat composting plant material, leaves, and other decomposing items. In your home, they’ll happily munch on food scraps, stray pieces of pet food, and dried goods, like sugar, flour, and cereal.
Places to lay eggs: Silverfish lay eggs in dark, moist, hidden areas of the home. The eggs are yellow or white, and bulb-shaped.
A place to hide: Silverfish love to establish themselves in protected areas like behind furniture, in bookshelves, or in damp basements. While making your home inhospitable to silverfish will help get rid of them, you may need the help of a pest control specialist for severe infestations.
You might be wondering, “Do silverfish mean my house is dirty?” Contrary to popular myth, silverfish are not drawn to dirty homes.
As silverfish in your home die off or become injured, the remaining living silverfish will eat the carcasses to fulfill their protein needs.

Are Silverfish Dangerous to People and Pets?

Silverfish are not harmful to people. They do not bite, sting, or carry diseases or pathogens.
Even though they’re not a threat to your health, silverfish are not pests you want to live with.
Silverfish can damage household goods and building materials, and their creepy presence will quickly make your home an unpleasant place to be
Additionally, some people with severe allergic symptoms may experience reactions (like itching, cough, and mucus buildup) to the feces or skin molts of silverfish.

5 Signs of a Silverfish Infestation

Think you might have silverfish in your home? Here are five signs to look for:

1. Seeing live silverfish

The first sign of silverfish infestation is the presence of live silverfish. These small, flexible, slippery insects range in color from blue-silver to brown-grey. They’re shaped like a teardrop and wiggle back and forth when they move, much like a fish does when swimming.
Spotting silverfish is difficult since they are nocturnal, but seeing even a single live silverfish is a good indication that you have an infestation somewhere in the home.

2. Droppings

Silverfish have fairly unique droppings. They look like small, black peppercorns, and are typically found in areas silverfish like to frequent, like the backs of furniture or the space beneath cupboards.
Silverfish droppings are small enough that many people mistake them for dust or household debris. If you sweep once and they keep coming back, though, you’ll know you have a pest problem.

3. Skin molts

Silverfish shed their skins throughout their lives. The outer shells are small, delicate, and transparent, but are a good indication of a silverfish infestation.

4. Yellow stains on your belongings

Even if you don’t notice actual skin molts, you may see the yellow dust left behind on surfaces as silverfish molt. These yellow stains often show up in books, papers, cardboard boxes, or on clothing.

5. Damage to belongings

One of the easiest ways to spot silverfish is to identify the damage they’re causing. Silverfish eat starchy food like wallpaper, linens, clothing, and cardboard. Look for holes chewed through items like these to confirm that you have a silverfish infestation.