Getting rid of silverfish can be a “slippery fish” (literally) due to the fact that these little creepy crawlies slip around through dark areas, always ready to quickly hide when the lights come on. So, how do you get rid of silverfish naturally?
Silverfish are very stealthy, quick, and agile in their movements, and are instantly able to disappear into even the tiniest of corners, cracks, crevices, and wall voids. They are not good climbers, however. They have been known to jump—yes, JUMP!—as high as two feet vertically. Best of luck to you if you’re trying to corner one!
Read on to learn how to get rid of silverfish. You don’t have to crush each of them individually, but you can put some preventive measures and safeguards in place to help prevent them and eliminate them once they’ve found their way into your home.
What Do Silverfish (Lepisma Saccharina) Look Like?
What are silverfish? Silverfish (otherwise known as “fishmoths”) are crawling, nocturnal insects, deriving their name because of their silvery-light grey to blue color and scaly appearance, as well as for their squirmy, fish-like movements. They have exoskeletons, typically measure about ½ to 1-inch long, and sport two antennae on their heads along with three prongs attached to their “wiggly” tails. Their diet consists primarily of carbohydrates (e.g., sugars, starches).
Silverfish have been on the earth since prehistoric times, even for hundreds of millions of years. They outdate, by far, even cockroaches and the dinosaurs. Today, silverfish can be found in most cosmopolitan areas around the world, needing relatively high humidity and/or moisture to survive.
Their predators include spiders, earwigs, and centipedes. Silverfish give these predators a run for their money because of their rapid, sneaky, and acrobatic movements. Silverfish have a close relative, known as the “firebrat.” Firebrats (Thermobia domestica) look a lot like silverfish but are a spotty, greyish-brown in color.
Silverfish vs. Firebrats
Silverfish and firebrats are often confused for one another. While they are related and share similar characteristics, there are distinct differences. These pests have a similar body shape and three tail-like appendages. However, silverfish are a solid silvery or gray color, while firebrats are a mottled brown or gray. Firebrats prefer hot temperatures and they’re often found near hot water pipes, fireplaces, and furnaces. Silverfish like warm environments, but not nearly as hot as firebrats. They are usually spotted in basements, cupboards, laundry rooms, bathrooms, and on bookshelves.
Are Silverfish Dangerous or Harmful to Humans or Pets?
Silverfish are considered indoor/domestic pests, and are known to eat through such household items as books, papers, wallpaper, clothing, and can even contaminate food in pantries.
Often mistaken for biting centipedes, and aside from the damage they can do, the good news is that silverfish are not known to bite humans or carry any diseases.
But there is also some bad news. They are prolific reproducers, and if you have seen one in your home, there are almost undoubtedly several others. If you are finding silverfish in your home, you’ve most likely got some sort of humidity or moisture issue going on somewhere.
How Long do Silverfish Live?
Silverfish can live between six to eight years. Females can lay 2-20 eggs daily, year-round, and silverfish larvae can grow into adulthood in three to four months. Doing the math will quickly reveal that even just one male and one female silverfish can easily fill your basement with silverfish in a matter of weeks.
Ready for even more bad news? Silverfish can be very difficult to kill, having built up a resistance to many conventional insecticides.
Where do Silverfish Live?
Silverfish reside in dark, damp, moist areas, as do other household pests, like cockroaches. By preventing and getting rid of silverfish, you will also be doing quite a bit to eliminate other bugs in your home.
The best places to look for silverfish include:
- Near plumbing and underneath sinks
- Laundry rooms
What do Silverfish Eat?
Silverfish primarily eat starches and proteins, and will even eat the glue on book bindings, plaster, and wallpaper adhesives. They will also eat dead insects. Like cockroaches, silverfish go crazy for the taste of paper and damp wood. You can also easily find them near books, piles of magazines and newspapers, in and near boxes, behind wallpaper, and around damp or rotting cabinets and window sills. Even without food, as long as there is water/moisture, silverfish can survive for up to a year.
Things That Attract Silverfish
Silverfish are drawn to areas where they can find food and a dark, damp place to hide. Check out a few things in and around your home that could be attracting silverfish.
- Moisture: One of the main reasons silverfish end up in your home and yard is because of moisture. Check for areas that could be collecting water, repair or replace leaking pipes, and ensure your gutters are working properly.
- Yard Debris: Things like grass clippings, piles of leaves, wood, and rocks can all provide silverfish with moisture and shelter.
- Mulch: Having mulch in your garden can be beneficial to your plants, but the moisture it retains can also attract silverfish.
- Food: Silverfish love to feed on items found in your pantry and cabinets. Make sure your food, especially grains and items containing sugar, are stored in tightly sealed containers.
- Books & Fabric: Fabric, books, and other paper products can also become a snack for silverfish. When storing these items, make sure they are in plastic bins that keep silverfish out.
How to Get Rid of Silverfish
If you want to get rid of silverfish, prevention is always the best strategy. Here are some easy-to-follow recommendations to help you keep silverfish out of your home:
Clean and Organize
Most pest problems can be addressed with better sanitation and lack of clutter. Removing as much clutter (including stacks of newspapers and magazines) and hiding spaces in your home, as well as regular sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming will help keep them away by eliminating food crumbs and other things they may eat. It will also help to vacuum up any eggs. Transfer dry foods from cardboard boxes to canisters (including pet food) and get rid of loose paper bags and empty boxes that may be lying around.
Seal it Up
Preventing entry points is a big step in preventing these pests from entering your home in the first place. Seal up all cracks and crevices, door jam cracks, utility entry points, holes in your bricks (weep holes), etc. Any possible areas where they could get in.
Reduce Exterior Clutter and Trim Vegetation
The invitation to silverfish and other pests to enter your home may be coming from the outside. When you are taking the time to seal up your house, remember to eliminate harborage areas, like leaf litter and clutter, away from the sides of your home, especially away from weep holes. Trim vegetation a foot or so away from your home’s sides so branches and leaves are not touching the outer walls.
Because silverfish seek out humid, damp areas, using a dehumidifier will help in making such areas less attractive to them. Dehumidifying can be costly, but well worth it, to keep these unwelcome visitors out. Take special care for your dark basement, which is prone to let water and moisture collect, not to mention all the hiding places.
Though silverfish have developed a resistance to many conventional pesticides, they can still be zapped with a good botanical insecticide spray. Maggie’s Farm Home Bug Spray is lethal to a variety of indoor pests, including silverfish, and it also offers you some residual repellent protection.
Glue traps are a good way to determine the extent of your silverfish problem. You can also wrap scotch tape around the outside of a mason jar or glass, then place a piece of bread in the bottom. Silverfish will be able to climb the taped exterior to enter the jar, but the slick glass interior will make it impossible for them to get out. Place your traps underneath kitchen or bathroom sinks, in the laundry room and/or basement, or anywhere else you may have spotted them.
You may also want to strategically spot treat silverfish-friendly areas with a good bait. Maggie’s Farm Roach Killer Gel Bait is made from soil microbes, giving you a naturally derived bait that silverfish love! For one thing, because baits work so you do not have to go and locate the pests, they will come to the bait.
With baits, less is more, so you will want to only apply small pea-sized spots of the gel bait in the areas you have been seeing them. Kitchen, bathroom, attic, garage, basement, etc.
More on How to Prevent Silverfish
Regardless of prevention steps, and no matter how sealed up your home is, there is always a chance that silverfish will find their way into your home. Here are some recommendations for you to easily get rid of silverfish naturally using our products.
When it comes to pest control products like insect baits and insecticide dusts, Maggie’s Farm products are about as close to Mother Nature’s natural methods as you can get.
Our Maggie’s Farm Spider & Insect Dust is an excellent preventive method for silverfish, spiders, and many other home and outdoor pests. Dusts offer you a long-term control method because the product will work for very long periods of time, as long as it stays dry.
Apply Maggie’s Farm Spider & Insect Dust in out of the way places: cracks and crevices, wall voids, along baseboards, under and inside cabinets, under sinks, under and between appliances, etc. Follow the product application label. Maggie’s Farm Spider & Insect Dust is natural plant-oil based and provides an excellent solution when you are trying to find a natural alternative to an insecticide.
What are your go-to methods to help prevent and eliminate silverfish? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment below.
For scientifically-tested, effective pest control that is better for the environment, try Maggie’s Farm pest control products. Our promise is that our plant and mineral-based products are developed by scientists and seasoned pest control professionals to be the most effective family of green pest control products on the market. Find out why life’s better on the farm!