Samantha Johnson

Maybe you've noticed holes in the pages of one of your old books, or maybe you've seen a funny little bug in the bathtub. Surprise! You may have a silverfish infestation in your home. So what are silverfish, and why are they hanging out in your house?

Meet the Silverfish

Long and thin, silverfish are light-grey insects with somewhat scaly-looking bodies shaped like a fish—hence the name! They have large antennae and long protruding cerci like an earwig. Silverfish can live for several years and have a similar lifestyle to firebrats, a related insect.

Why Silverfish Are a Problem

Are silverfish harmful? Silverfish don't rank up there with fleasticks, or mosquitoes when it comes to causing trouble for humans. Silverfish aren't poisonous, but they are somewhat destructive and can present a few different problems around your home.

How Silverfish Affect Your Pet

Good news! Silverfish won't bite, sting, or particularly bother your pet—they don't crawl into your pet's fur like fleas or ticks. But you want to keep your dog or cat from trying to eat a silverfish, as this could cause health issues.1

How Silverfish Affect Your Home

  • The main issue with silverfish is that they are a nuisance around the house.
  • What attracts silverfish? They might not have a passion for quality literature, but they certainly have a taste for paper! A common complaint of homeowners with silverfish infestations is the "vandalism" of books. Silverfish often eat the pages, sometimes burrowing fairly deep into the book and excavating tunnels in them.
  • Silverfish have a nasty habit of eating wallpaper glue. They can get behind the wallpaper in your home and cause unsightly damage.
  • Silverfish may damage other paper items like photographs or paperwork.
  • You may find occasional silverfish in the bathroom, as they may wander in while seeking a water source, becoming stuck in the bathtub or sink.
  • Silverfish may try to munch through cereal boxes or similar products, ruining the food inside.

How Silverfish Affect Your Yard

Silverfish typically aren't a problem for lawns, yards, or gardens. If they're outdoors, they're probably feeding on other insects or non-plant materials.

How to Get Rid of Silverfish

You have quite a few options to try when it comes to stopping silverfish:

  • Watch for hitchhikers. Where do silverfish come from? Silverfish sometimes hitch a ride into your home while hiding inside objects. If possible, inspect secondhand furniture, books, or boxes before bringing them inside your home.
  • Protect your home. Silverfish may also enter your home through the standard means of access: cracks and crevices around your home's foundation, basement, or crawlspace, or through damaged screens and similar entrances. Maintaining and preventing these access points by caulking and sealing can help keep silverfish away.2
  • Reduce moisture. Silverfish like moisture and humidity, so keeping those down in your home should help. Try running a dehumidifier, particularly in basements or other moist spaces, to discourage silverfish from moving in. Repair leaks as well to avoid attracting silverfish to damp areas.
  • Use a silverfish spray. A home product like Adams Plus Flea & Tick Carpet Spray can be used to kill silverfish, reaching into baseboard cracks or similar areas. You could also try an Adams Plus Flea & Tick Indoor Fogger.
  • Hide the books. Even though it's a chore, you might need to protect books and papers until you have the silverfish infestation controlled. This means packing susceptible items into plastic totes or similar storage units that silverfish can't penetrate.
  • Vacuum. A clean house will help discourage silverfish!

Nobody likes the extra work and the nuisance that comes from silverfish damage, but with a bit of effort, you can stop these insects from taking up residence in your home.

1. Nall, Rachel. Healthline. "What Are Silverfish and Can They Hurt You?" 17 January 2020.

2. Jacobs, Steve. Pennsylvania State University Extension. "Bristletails (Silverfish and Firebrats)," 1 March 2017.

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