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Silverfish, Lepisma saccharina, are clearly not fish. Their nickname comes from their silver color and the way that their bodies move back and forth, side-to-side, like fish when they move.
Why they like it in your home
- Plenty to eat. They tend to eat sugary substances called polysaccharides that are found in numerous household objects, such as book glue, carpet fibers, household glue, paint, fabrics, and even your furniture.
- Places to hide. They leave their eggs, which look like white and yellow bulbs, in dark, moist, hidden areas of your home.
- Moisture. Like many other household pests, they thrive in moist, humid environments.
- Places to thrive. They can live up to 8 years and reproduce frequently throughout their lives. This is why they can be a huge nuisance and over time they can cause damage to household items.
Read on to learn more about how silverfish can affect your health, how to get rid of them, and how to keep them from coming back.
6 ways to get rid of silverfish
Here are some tips for getting rid of silverfish, both with at-home ingredients and special tools available at many home improvement stores.
- Put a starchy food or substance in a glass container and wrap the outside with tape. This way, silverfish can get into the jar by climbing up the textured surface of the tape, but they won’t be able to get back out because their feet can’t adhere to the smooth glass surface inside.
- Roll up newspaper. Wet it so silverfish crawl into it and make their homes. After a few days, throw the newspaper away or burn it to get rid of the silverfish that have stayed in there.
- Put out sticky traps. Silverfish can crawl and get stuck on these.
- Put out small bits of silverfish poison. Don’t use this method if you have pets or children who might eat or touch the poison.
- Use cedar or cedar oil. You can use the oil in a diffuser or a spray bottle filled with water and cedar oil. They hate the strong-smelling pheromones in cedar.
- Spread dried bay leaves throughout your home. Silverfish and other insects are repelled by its oils.
Shop for silverfish traps online.
Silverfish aren’t a big threat to your indoor environment or to your health in small numbers.
They provide food for spiders and other predatory insects, so they can help maintain the balance in your home’s insect ecosystem, which can actually be good for your indoor environment as a whole.
But they can damage some of your belongings over time or grow to an infestation.
Tips to prevent silverfish
Here are some tips to keep silverfish from becoming a problem in your home:
- Keep all dry food in your cupboards in sealed containers. This will keep them free of moisture.
- Dust your home often. This will keep silverfish from particles that may contain starches or saccharides that they like to eat.
- Remove items with adhesive from your home. This includes stacksof paper, laundry, cardboard boxes, or other items that silverfish could be attracted to.
- Store clothes in a dry environment. Store clothes you won’t wear for a while in containers that silverfish can’t get into.
- Clean up any food particles around your home. This is especially important right after a meal. Use a HEPA vacuum that can also suck up silverfish eggs and keep them from reproducing and multiplying.
- Use caulking. Cover up cracks, holes, or openings to keep silverfish out and stop them from laying eggs.
- Get a dehumidifier. Live in a moist climate? Reduce the humidity in your indoor air to 60 percent or lower to stop silverfish from living and thriving in your home.
- Ventilate any rooms that get warm and moist. This includes your bathroom or your kitchen. Open windows and doors and turn on fans to clear moisture from the air.
- Get rid of piles of brush, dead plants, wood, and leaves. Clear the perimeter around your home of leaves and other damp debris.
Silverfish and our health
Not biters or stingers
No need to worry if you have a close encounter with a silverfish — they don’t bite or sting, and they’re not known to carry any diseases.
People can find the debris that silverfish create to be allergens. Some people may find that they’re allergic or sensitive to the molted skins and droppings.
A protein known as tropomyosin, found in their molted exoskeletons, can even combine with other allergens found in common indoor pests, such as dust mites. This is called a recombinant allergen and can create stronger allergic reactions.
Some who are allergic to dust mites, a much more common bug, are also allergic to silverfish.
Silverfish are pretty harmless indoor insects that rarely cause any major damage to homes.
When they grow to large numbers, they can eat up valuable belongings and generally be a nuisance.
For many people, their skins can produce allergens that, when combined with other indoor allergens like dust and other microscopic debris, result in disruptive allergy symptoms like itching, mucus buildup, and coughing.
Getting rid of silverfish isn’t difficult, though. Just try a few removal and prevention tips and you should see some quick success in removing them from your home or keeping them out altogether.