Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) are cigar-shaped, silver/grey, wingless insects, usually measuring just over a cm in length. They are one of the oldest insects in the world and have inhabited the planet for over 400 million years. Their lifespan is on average 3 – 6 years, but they can live up to 8 years, so an infestation won’t be short lived.
Silverfish like damp areas and thrive in moist, humid environments such as kitchens, bathrooms and dark conditions, including cellars, underneath sinks and around pipes. They can move quickly and have three long bristles for a tail, but cannot climb smooth surfaces, so often get trapped in baths and sinks.
Silverfish like to eat polysaccharides, which are sugary substances found in such things as book glue, carpet fibres, household glue, paint, fabrics, and furniture. They lay their white and yellow eggs in dark, moist, hidden areas and reproduce frequently throughout their lives.
Are Silverfish harmful?
Silverfish don’t bite or sting and aren’t known to carry any diseases, so coming into contact with a live silverfish isn’t likely to cause you any problems. However, they can sometimes cause an issue for people suffering from certain allergies. Some people are allergic or sensitive to their moulted skin and droppings, and a protein known as tropomyosin, which is found in silverfish exoskeletons, can combine with other allergens found in common pests, such as dust mites. This creates something called a recombinant allergen, which can create a stronger allergic reaction. People with a dust mite allergy are more likely to suffer an allergic reaction to silverfish.
Whilst silverfish are largely harmless to humans, they can cause damage to clothing, books, papers, food and wallpaper. Silverfish are nocturnal, so aren’t easy to spot during the day. If you suspect that you may have a problem, look out for damp, dark areas with small spots of excrement. Small holes and yellowish stains on clothing, wallpaper, cereal boxes, and other cardboard or fabric materials are also common.
How to get rid of Silverfish
There are a number of things that you can do to minimise the risk of a silverfish infestation, and to eradicate them, if you do have an infestation:
Ventilate damp rooms
It is difficult to avoid damp and moisture in certain rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens, so is important to ensure that those rooms are well ventilated to clear as much moisture from the air as possible.
As silverfish like damp, humid conditions, regularly using a dehumidifier will make your building less attractive to them.
Seal cracks and crevices
Prevent silverfish from entering your property by sealing gaps around doors, windows and doors and where utility lines enter with caulking and filler.
Silverfish feed on books, dead skin cells, and other starchy materials. Get rid of redundant books, paperwork, cardboard boxes, clothes and other items that may have adhesive in them and be attractive to silverfish.
Don’t leave damp material laying around
Damp material such as clothing, cloths and towels are attractive to silverfish, so try not to leave them laying around on floors and surfaces.
Dust can contain particles containing starch and saccharides, which silverfish like to eat.
Keep any dry food in sealed containers
This will keep them moisture free, making them less attractive to silverfish.
Spray harbourages with a household insecticide or insect powder labelled for control of silverfish.
Treat infestations fast
Silverfish can lay eggs at any time of year and grow from larva to adult in 3-4 months, so it doesn’t take long for one of these pests to turn into an infestation.
Call a professional
If you have a significant silverfish infestation, that can’t be remedied by the above, you will need to call in a professional, such as Monitor Pest Control. Monitor can implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach, which will eliminate infestations quickly and efficiently. For more information about how Monitor can assist you with your silverfish infestation, visit our silverfish page.
Download our Top Tips on Silverfish Pest Control.