Silverfish frequently appear as the air turns cold outside a home as they seek warmth. Of all the home pests we see on a regular basis, silverfish may be the ones that most confuse people. But what are they? Where do they come from? What do they eat? Are they dangerous? These are the common questions that our pest control professionals receive. With that in mind, we are here to dispel a few concerns and tell you what you should know about this strange looking home invader.
Are silverfish dangerous?
Let’s answer the most important question first. And the answer is: No. While Silverfish are a nuisance and can severely damage personal belongings – especially those made from paper – they do not bite humans or spread disease. What they can do, however, is chew holes in clothing, upholstery, and paper goods, especially wallpaper and books. They can also feed on glue and clothing, as well as food items such as rolled oats and flour.
OK, so, while they are not dangerous, they are clearly something you don’t want. That brings us to the next question:
How do I know if I have a silverfish infestation?
First, let’s understand what a silverfish looks like: Also known as “bristletails” because of their three long, bristle-like or tail-like appendages on the rear end of their body, adult silverfish are about the size of a nickel (1/2- to 3/4-inches long, not including the tail). Wingless, they have a silvery, metallic body that is covered with scales, is flat and tapers from head to rear. They got their name because of their appearance, quick movements, and fish-like shape. They also have threadlike antennas and small compound eyes that are widely separated. Young silverfish simply look like smaller adults.
Silverfish are found throughout the U.S. and right here in north Georgia and metro Atlanta. They especially love moist, humid areas in the home – quite often taking up residence in bathrooms, basements, and attics. And they will do their best to remain hidden from sight. Silverfish are especially fond of (and can be quite destructive in) offices, stores, and libraries.
So, to determine if you have a silverfish infestation, you may have to look for signs of the pest, rather than the pest itself. That means you should look for feeding marks – such as holes, notches along an edge, or surface etchings. Silverfish also leave behind yellow stains, scales and/or feces (tiny black pepper-like pellets).
So, how do silverfish behave?
These pests are tough to get rid of because they can survive for weeks without food or water. However, they do need a high humidity environment – 70 to 90 percent. They also like a consistent room temperature (70-85 degrees) and are nocturnal.
Be doubly aware if you have a shake roof, as these structures are ideal breeding sites for silverfish during warmer months – they provide an abundance of moisture, cellulose, starch and dead insects. Once in the roof, the silverfish intrudes into the home and moves through insulation to other spots. They often come into your home via cardboard and paper from an infested location.
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They will also move great distances (relative to their size) in search of food, but, once they find it, they remain close to it.
A female silverfish lays about one to three eggs per day, placing them in cracks, under objects or simply exposed. Under the right temperature and humidity, the egg hatches within 3-4 months. However, some eggs need 2-3 years to meet the required conditions and hatch. Silverfish live to an average of around three years.
How do you prevent a silverfish infestation – or get rid of them when they appear?
First off, you need to remove their food source and store those targets in a clean, dry place. Get rid of old books and magazines in areas where silverfish are usually found like basements, attics, and garages. And it’s important to keep food items such as flour and sugar in tight containers.
Next, get a dehumidifier for your home – especially basements, attics, or crawlspaces – where your HVAC does not keep the air dry.
Make sure you repair any leaky pipes and drains and eliminate or repair any moldy or wet wood.
Shake roofs should also be cleaned and sealed every other year.
If a silverfish infestation is suspected or found, it’s best to call a licensed pest control professional to properly inspect the home and recommend the appropriate treatment method.
Find the right pest control experts
At Zone our pest solutions department has over 20 years of knowledge of what it takes to evict and keep silverfish out for good. We will help you do so with a plan that makes sense for your budget. No one wants to live with silverfish, and Zone will help ensure that you do not have to worry about these little nuisances.