How To Prevent & Get Rid Of Silverfish

How to Get Rid of Silverfish Without Chemicals

What are Silverfish?

Lepisma saccharina, or the common silverfish, is a wingless insect that wriggles around when it moves. Silverfish bugs get their name because of its silvery color and strong resemblance to a fish. They rely mostly on carbohydrates to survive that come from starches and natural sugars.

Silverfish and their cousins the firebrats are nocturnal bugs that are usually between a half and one inch in length. They also have two long antennae at the back of their abdomens and have a set of eyes at the front of their bodies.

Firebrats and silverfish are considered to be some of the most damaging insects because of their ability to multiply quickly and destroy property. They will continuously feast on whatever food sources they find in the house and are quick to move around the rest of the house in search of more food.

Over the course of their lifetime, an adult silverfish can have as many as 66 offspring. If you have silverfish in your house, they are likely seeking food, a better environment, or more space to grow their population.

Silverfish find their way into homes through cracks and gaps around doors, windows, and walls, as wells as through foundation cracks. They can even find their way inside on boxes or bags from other infested locations. Once they see a hospitable place, they will likely remain there until you get rid of them.

 

Where do Silverfish Live?

Silverfish prefer dark, damp, moist areas — as do a variety of other household pests. Fortunately, this means that your efforts to get rid of them will also kill off many other bugs in your home, too.

They love the taste of paper and wet wood. You’ll typically find them around books, magazines, cereal boxes, storage boxes, and behind wallpaper, along with damp or rotting window sills or cupboards.

The best places to look for them are:

  • Bathrooms
  • Under sinks
  • Laundry room
  • Basement
  • Closets
  • Attics

 

Home Remedies for Silverfish and Fish Moth

Spread Boric Acid Along the Floor
Boric acid is an excellent weapon against household bugs like silverfish bugs. When ingested, boric acid can cause havoc in the bug’s stomach. The powder can also scratch and dry out the fish moth’s exoskeleton due to its abrasive nature. Spread the boric acid along all corners of the floor and in dark spaces such as the wardrobe and bedroom cabinets. Boric acid doesn’t kill pests immediately so you may not notice any effects until a week has passed.

Boric acid should be used carefully despite being a substance that occurs naturally. All safety precautions (e.g. masks, gloves) should be taken to limit the powder’s exposure to your body. Pet owners and families with young children should use food-grade diatomaceous earth as a safer alternative to boric acid.

Sprinkle Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth
Food-grade diatomaceous earth has a similar effect to boric acid. To insects, diatomaceous earth can feel like shattered glass due to its microscopic sharp edges. Please make sure you get the food-grade version and not the pool-grade version. Sprinkle a liberal amount of food-grade diatomaceous earth on common silverfish hiding spots, such as bookcases and wardrobes. Be persistent and patient. Re-apply the powder once every few weeks and you should eventually see the silverfish bugs disappear.

Reduce Moisture with a Dehumidifier
Silverfish bugs like to relocate to dark, damp places. You should see an immediate difference after the humidity level is reduced in your home. It’s worthwhile investing in a dehumidifier if you live in an area that has high humidity levels. In some cases, the high humidity may be due to some sort of house maintenance issue, such as a leaking pipe or a leaking roof. Repairing these issues should make a huge difference in the presence of fish moths and other bugs that thrive in high-humidity environments.

Place Cedar Blocks to Repel Silverfish Bugs
Some studies have concluded that cedar can repel pests like silverfish bugs due to the strong aroma that’s given off by the cedar essential oil.

If you don’t mind the scent of cedar then consider placing some cedar blocks in various places around your home, such as the cabinets and windowsills. Cedar hangers may also help keep the silverfish bugs away from your valuable clothes.

Discard Old Newspapers and Cardboard Boxes
Silverfish bugs and fish moths love to feed on starchy paper-based material. Some homeowners have had their valuable books ruined due to a lack of control against the silverfish population. One of the first steps to eliminating silverfish bugs is to discard any unneeded paper materials. This includes old newspaper, cardboard boxes, old magazines, and crumbling wallpaper. You should also try to donate any books that you are no longer going to read. Hoarding will only make it more likely for silverfish bugs to appear in your home.

 

Seal Up Food

You don’t want to pour out a bowl of your favorite cereal just to find it’s swimming with these squirming insects. Penn State recommends sealing dry goods like cereal, pasta, rice, quinoa, flour, sugar, and pet food in sturdy, airtight containers to prevent silverfish from reaching these tempting food sources.

 

Keeping Silverfish Away

I followed up with these steps about six months later. Whilst I still found the odd few Silverfish, it was nothing to what I had found the first time. Also, I had no more damaged items in my wardrobe, which was a relief. Ever since, I make sure to re-do this method once a year and rarely if ever do I find any.

  • Make it a habit to spray some lavender oil around the skirting boards or cupboard doors to refresh the scent and keep those nasties away in between your big cleanings.
  • Try and leave areas as clutter-free as possible.
  • Keep paper to a minimum. If you do need to store it, try using plastic containers that are air-tight. There are a few key things that Silverfish are attracted to, but paper is one of them.

 

Seal Up Food

You don’t want to pour out a bowl of your favorite cereal just to find it’s swimming with these squirming insects. Penn State recommends sealing dry goods like cereal, pasta, rice, quinoa, flour, sugar, and pet food in sturdy, airtight containers to prevent silverfish from reaching these tempting food sources.

Kill Silverfish With Pest Control

THE BASICS OF SILVERFISH

It’s too bad silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) are so creepy, because these insects are actually quite interesting. In fact, they are among the oldest species of insects—evidence suggests that their relatives been around for over 400 million years, which makes them older than the dinosaurs. Imagine that you and T-Rex could possibly be creeped out by the same things! Silverfish can also can also live between two and six years, which is relatively long in the insect world.

Despite their long history on this planet, silverfish never developed wings. However, they possess incredible speed, and they can outrun most of their natural predators, including earwigs, house centipedes and spiders. Being nocturnal, it’s not unusual to find these guys during a late-night trip to the bathroom, scurrying around in the sink, bathtub, or any reliable source of water.

Silverfish are small (often measuring between .5 – 1 inch in length), and have flexible, grayish scales covering their bodies that protect them from predators. The scales, paired with the wiggling motion of their bodies when they run, are the reason they’re called silverfish. Their body shape also enables them to snuggle into book bindings (one of their favorite foods). Silverfish also recognizable by the three, threadlike tails sticking out of its abdomen—a shape resembling a pitchfork.

Silverfish prefer food that consists of complex sugars (polysaccharides) and starches. Some examples of these include paper, clothing, plaster, sugar, photos and bookbindings (these guys love bookbindings—if there was a contest for “Most Literate Bug” these guys would probably beat out the notorious bookworm). They will also feast on cotton, dead insects and other textiles. When food is scarce, silverfish have been known to munch on leather, but they can live up to a year without food if water is available.

Although silverfish do not cause harm to humans or transmit diseases, the damage they cause to clothes, books and other household items can be quite costly. For this reason, they are considered pests.

Where do Silverfish Come from?

Silverfish are most active at night in empty areas. They’re attracted to starch and sugar, which means that they gravitate toward materials containing these substances, including the silverfish favorite: books and newspapers. Book bindings, which contain starchy glue, are a common place to find silverfish — especially those of books that have not been used for a long while. Where else do silverfish like to hang out?

Dark and damp areas (think undersink cabinets, for example)

Cracks in walls

Fungal molds, often found in old pipes or in older bathrooms

Cellulose-containing products, such as shampoos and shaving foams, which is part of the reason why silverfish are commonly spotted in bathrooms

Cedar shake roofs, because chances of mold are higher in homes with this roof type

Fabrics. Check your curtains periodically, as the pests could be making tiny holes

 

How Serious Are Silverfish Problems?

May Cause Allergies

Silverfish often present a mild risk to people and property. They do not transmit disease, but the pests may trigger allergies in some people.

May Attract Other Pests

Their presence sometimes attracts carpet beetles and causes unease due to their strange appearance.

May Cause Damage to Personal Items

While indoors, silverfish also eat grains and chew large holes into clothing, upholstery, or paper. In large numbers, they can cause a lot of damage. Ruined items often include stored files, books, and vintage clothes.

 

5 Ways to Get Rid of Silverfish

Of all the insect infestations you can be cursed with, silverfish might just be the most skin-crawling — right after cockroaches, of course. Silverfish are mostly a (super-creepy) nuisance pest, but they can destroy books, wallpaper, and clothes with their excrement, according to the experts at Penn State’s Department of Entomology Cooperative Extension program. If you find silverfish in your home, you definitely want them gone fast, but pesticides aren’t the only way to go.

Follow these steps for an effective pest-control plan.

  1. Seal Up Food

You don’t want to pour out a bowl of your favorite cereal just to find it’s swimming with these squirming insects. Penn State recommends sealing dry goods like cereal, pasta, rice, quinoa, flour, sugar, and pet food in sturdy, airtight containers to prevent silverfish from reaching these tempting food sources.

  1. Reduce Humidity

Silverfish thrive in moist, humid environments, says James Norton of Fantastic Pest Control in London. Take away their favorite conditions by using a dehumidifier in damp basements, sealing up leaky pipes, and making sure the bathroom is well ventilated. You should also keep the weather out by sealing up exterior cracks with caulk and making sure gutters and downspouts are clear so water can run down and away, according to Penn State.

  1. Clear Clutter

Silverfish also love hiding in — and feasting upon — old papers, magazines, and books, so if you tend to save every piece of paper that crosses your desk, you might need to do some clearing out. Get rid of the stuff you haven’t looked at in forever, and store items you can’t bear to part with in airtight bins, especially if the papers are kept in the basement or attic.

  1. Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth, or DE, is a white crumbly powder consisting of the fossilized remains of diatoms, a class of algae. When silverfish come in contact with DE, it destroyers their outer waxy coating, causing them to lose moisture and die. You can sprinkle it around the baseboards in your home, and other places you’ve seen silverfish.

Norton recommends applying it in the evening, since silverfish are nocturnal, and for several nights in a row in order for it to work. Purchase DE on Amazon or at a local home improvement store.

  1. Try Some Traps

To speed up these management strategies, add a few traps into the mix. You can buy small packets (like these) designed to trap and poison silverfish with boric acid.

Hide them in places where you’re likely to encounter the creepy crawlies, like bookshelves, dresser and desk drawers, under the sink, and in the basement and attic. Note that boric acid can be toxic if swallowed, so keep the traps where kids and pets can’t get to them and away from where you store food.

New tools needed

With the short reproduction time of these insects, and their genetic ability to evolve resistance to poisons, the scientists are urging less reliance on chemicals as a means of control.

“We need to emphasis that we need to use different tools – we can’t depend totally on chemicals we need to incorporate other alternatives,” said Dr Romero.

“The pest control industry are incorporating new tools, heat, vapour, encasement, there are a bunch of these non-chemical methods that definitely help.”

The scientists recognise and even admire the evolutionary ability of these creatures to rapidly overcome humanity’s attempts to control them.

Dr Romero says the latest research indicates that the bugs are unlikely to be effectively controlled by chemical means in the near future.

“It’s a very complex problem and we are going to have bed bugs for many years because of this problem with insecticides and then there is a social context that makes eradication and control very difficult.”