How to Get Rid of Silverfish

Have you’ve ever opened a box stored in an attic or basement only to be totally freaked out by silvery, slimy alien-like insects that were calling it home?  Meet the Silverfish! These paper-loving invaders will consume cardboard, ruin books and more – all while their fast, fish-like movement set the stage for nightmares to follow. Before you get totally grossed out, here’s what you need to know to get rid of Silverfish!

What are they?

The Scientific name is Lepisma saccharina (Linnaeus), commonly known as the Silverfish. Their appearance is about 3/4″ long, silvery to brown in color, an elongated oval shape with 6 legs and an antenna. When they run they resemble a fish swimming. They tend to hide their presence from humans, which means any damage they have caused could go unnoticed as well.

get rid of silverfishPhoto credit: Pestworld.org
Where do Silverfish hide?

They are nocturnal, so you may have had them for a while and not known it. Their favorite environment is dark, damp places. In your home that may be in the attic, basement, crawlspace, bathroom, laundry rooms, under the kitchen sink, around pipes, and in food storage areas where food is stored in cardboard or paper. They can be in areas that have books stored, either in boxes or on bookshelves. Paper and glue are a favorite food source, so they may eat the glue or wallpaper on your walls. Letting things pile up in your home is an invitation to Silverfish. Be aware of leaving piles of laundry on the floor, especially if it has become wet because this would an ideal environment for Silverfish.

Signs of a Silverfish infestation

Besides actually seeing one or more silverfish, other telltale signs are holes in paper or cardboard, yellow stains, pieces of previously scaled skin, and feces which appear as small black specs. One or all of these things can point to an infestation. What can you do now?

get rid of silverfishPhoto credit: Pestworld.org
How exactly do I get rid of Silverfish?

Keeping up with clutter in your home is the first step. Piles of things, books, textiles and more need to be de-cluttered. Make sure you don’t have any leaky pipes. Repairing them will cut down on the chance of Silverfish having a ready water source. Look for cracks and holes on the outside of your house that allow them inside. These may be in the foundation, around windows, at the siding, or shake roofing material that has not been kept sealed. The Silverfish can just walk in the door, however, because they are nocturnal, they are more likely to sneak in through cracks. These fissures need to be sealed so entry cannot be gained. A good all-weather caulk will usually do the job.

Natural Home Remedies to Repel and Kill Silverfish

Things that repel Silverfish, by their scent, include citrus fruit peels, cucumber peels, cinnamon, cloves, lavender oil, cedar oil, and sachets of herbs that have rosemary, eucalyptus, sage, and basil. All of the previous will also give a nice scent to your home. Mothballs are also a scent repellent but may be unpleasant to smell, and toxic to pets and children, if eaten. When using peels, replace them every few days. For the cinnamon, you can use sticks and place them among books on your bookshelf. The oils can be used in a diluted spray form.
Diatomaceous Earth is a white powder that is food grade and harmless to humans but dehydrates Silverfish, thus killing them.
Table Salt or Epsom Salts can be used in the same way as diatomaceous earth but may take a little longer.
Silica Gel Powder is also used to dehydrate Silverfish. Contact with Silica Gel is harmless but is poisonous if eaten.
Boric Acid will kill them as soon as they eat it. It will also dehydrate them and kill their eggs.
Sealing Up Food will protect it from this pest. Put cereal, flour, and pasta in plastic with lids or glass with lids.
A Dehumidifier will dry out the area, it is especially useful in basements, and will keep the area less attractive to Silverfish.

In addition to these natural remedies, there are a number of well-reviewed commercial products including convenient Silverfish packs,  insect traps, and spray products that can provide a longer term barrier against reinfestation.

If the infestation is pervasive, it may be tie to contact a certified pest control expert.  Pros have the experience, as well as access to pesticides that specifically target Silverfish and can quickly eradicate these pests.

Silverfish are classified as harmless to humans and do not spread disease, but can be voracious destroyers of paper, textiles, and contaminate food sources. Following the above suggestions can be a barrier to the Silverfish thinking your home is their home.

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