Silverfish Control: Protect Your Home



As the name implies, silverfish are silver or gray insects that move from side to side in a manner that resembles the motions of a swimming fish. These cosmopolitan pests are found throughout the United States. They prefer habitats around room temperature with high humidity and are known to feed on a variety of foodstuffs. A nuisance pest, silverfish can be quite annoying in libraries, museums, and homes, as they feed on paper and the glue in book bindings.


What Do They Look Like?

silverfish bug
silverfish on floor

Size: The common silverfish is about 1/2 an inch in length, but may grow as long as 3/4 of an inch.

Color: Deriving its name from the color of its body, the silverfish typically appears shiny silver or pearl gray.

Body: Slender, flat and “carrot shaped,” the silverfish body gradually tapers from the front to the rear where a trio of long, thin, tail-like appendages extend. The insect also has two long antennae which, when combined with the tail appendages, nearly equal the length of the body.

No Wings
Nocturnal by nature, silverfish are fast-moving but do not possess wings for flight.

Geographic Range

With a worldwide range, silverfish can be found throughout the United States, as well as the rest of the country.


Things Silverfish Eat

Silverfish can go for long periods of time without nourishment. When the pests eat, they tend to prefer foods high in carbohydrates or protein, such as:

  • cereal grains
  • dried meat
  • dead insects
  • their own young
  • synthetic fabrics
  • clothes: silk, cotton, linen
  • the glue contained in book bindings or wallpaper
  • and paper products


Silverfish lay their eggs in cool, moist, and dark places, such as cracks, crevices, and other narrow spaces near sources of food. Each female lays between 1 to 3 eggs per day which hatch into nymphs that look similar to adults.

Silverfish Life Cycle Information


Where to Find Them

  • Look for silverfish in basements, storage areas, closets, and crawl spaces.
  • May notice holes at irregular intervals in books or wallpaper, sometimes accompanied by yellow staining.
  • Remain alert for tiny fecal matter that looks like specks of pepper.
  • Silverfish are often found in areas of high moisture, including bathtubs and sinks.

Problems Caused by Silverfish

Primarily just a nuisance, silverfish are not known to transmit any diseases or cause structural damage to homes. For the most part, homeowners, museum workers, and librarians detest the creature because of its appetite for books, paper, and similar artifacts. In these situations, damages can be costly, especially if rare or antique pieces are fed on. Though rare, the accumulation of dead silverfish and their scales may lead to allergic reactions, as well as provide a food source for the damaging carpet beetle.

Signs of Infestation

Outside of seeing the insects scurrying from place to place indoors, the most common sign of a silverfish infestation is the damage they inflict upon book bindings, wallpaper, and certain fabrics found around the home.

Holes or Stains
The emergence of small, unconnected, and irregular-shaped holes and staining may hint at the presence of the silverfish.

More information about silverfish signs & how to detect activity.

Prevention Tips

As silverfish prefer dark and moist hiding places, eliminating their favorite environmental conditions can help prevent the insects from infesting. Reroute drainage away from the home to reduce damp conditions in basements or crawl spaces, keep interior floors clear of debris and use a dehumidifier to lower the relative humidity within the structure. Keep all dry goods in properly sealed containers, and store books in a moisture-free environment.

Get Rid of Them

Difficult to Control
Silverfish can be difficult to eliminate with sticky traps and other store-bought baits. While infestations may not reach large enough numbers to draw notice, the insects are resilient and sometimes return even after they are believed to be eliminated.

Effectively dealing with large silverfish infestations requires an integrated pest management plan combining household sanitation with the application of chemical insecticides. As silverfish can survive for months without eating, simply cleaning up potential food sources often proves insufficient in combating existing infestations. The origins of silverfish infestations can also be difficult to locate due to the ability of the insects to avoid detection.

There Could Be Larger Issues
Furthermore, an infestation of silverfish often represents a chronic, ongoing issue that is rarely eliminated completely using DIY remedies alone (and may be the result of a leaking roof or other chronic structural issue). Commercially available chemical insecticides can even exacerbate the problem by allowing the bodies and scales of dead silverfish to accumulate and serve as food sources for other pest insects such as carpet beetles.

Permanent Removal

To avoid damage to stored goods, books, wallpaper, and personal property, homeowners should contact pest control experts. Most specialists are trained to handle silverfish at every stage in their life cycle. Not only do professionals address immediate threats posed by the pests, but they help identify and fix underlying factors causing infestations in the first place. To ensure complete eradication from the home, call a professional and ask for a free inspection.