How to Identify and Get Rid of Silverfish

What does a silverfish look like? How destructive are they? In this article, we will be discussing silverfish, what they look like, the harm they pose to homes and the ways to get rid of them.

Silverfish is one of the oldest insects in the world, tracing their origins from as far as millions of years ago. They have survived for such a long time because of their ability to survive in virtually all types of environments.

How can you recognise silverfish? Can they cause harm? How do you address silverfish infestation in your home? These questions and more will be answered in this article.

How Does Silverfish Look?

Their name originated from its shape, which is similar to a fish, and the colour of its scale, which is silver or metallic brown. They have long bodies, usually 12-19 millimetres, six legs and two antennaes.

These nocturnal insects are also known by the name of bristletails because of the three ling bristles at the end of their tails.

What Do Silverfish Feed On?

The food sources of silverfish are various materials, particularly those rich in proteins such as grains, vegetables, fibres, sugars and fabrics. They also love cereals and pet food.

If you have a collection of books, vintage clothing or antique furniture, they are at high risk of damage from silverfish. This is because silverfish love paper, glue, silk and other textiles. While feeding on these objects, silverfish cause damage in many ways:

  • They leave dark stains and small holes in the items they eat
  • They leave light grey spots when their jaws scraped across surfaces
  • They cause mould growth, which leaves dark brown stains on items with silverfish damage.

It is important to know the diet of silverfish as it will determine where they would be most likely found.

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What Harm Can Silverfish Cause?

Humans. Silverfish don’t bite or carry pathogens, so they are not harmful to humans. The misconception that silverfish cause harm to people probably came from their strange appearance – a carrot-shaped body in a metallic colour with three long, thin, tail-like appendages that protrude from their tail.

Pets. They may look frightening, but silverfish are not harmful if accidentally ingested by your pet. However, pet owners should still allow their dog or cat to eat silverfish. In general, silverfish are considered as pests not because of the harm they can cause on humans or animals, but because of the damage they can do on personal belongings.

image of a silverfish in white background

8 Bugs that Look Life Silverfish but Aren’t

Silverfish may be common in homes, but surprisingly a lot of people often confuse them with other bugs. Here are 8 bugs that look similar to silverfish.

  1. Firebrats. It looks similar the most to silverfish. They have carrot-shaped bodoes with colours ranging from grey to brown, with dark stops along the body. What distinguishes them from silverfish is their preference for heat and high humidity. Their name originated from their fire-proof legs, allowing them to crawl on boilers, furnaces and pipes.
  2. Millipedes. Like silverfish, millipedes love moist places, heat and humidity. But they differ in appearance. They have very long, tubular, and segmented bodies, with each segment having two pairs of legs.
  3. Jumping Bristletails. They look a lot like silverfish because silverfish are a subspecies of bristletails. They got their name from their ability jump high. Jumping bristletails are bigger but agile legs, and are longer and bigger than silverfish. They are more commonly found outdoors compared to their silverfish cousins.
  4. Earwigs. They have reddish-brown bodies that can growth into a maximum of 25mm. Their main difference with silverfish would be their wings and their two appendages. But in all other aspects, earwigs are similar to silverfish.
  5. Centipedes. Silverfish and centipedes appear the same from afar. But on closer look, centipedes have more 30 legs. Centipedes are prey on silverfish, ants and cockroaches.
  6. Carpet Beetle Larvae. This bug has many species and each varies in terms of their colour patterns, so in terms of appearance, they don’t look anything like silverfish. But in terms of habits, they share some similarities. Carpet beetle larvae are not as fast as silverfish, but they can easily affix themselves on clothes, wool, feathers and furry items like silverfish. Both pests love moist and damp places.
  7. Isopods. These are a group of different bug-like species including roly-polies, pill bugs, snow bugs and army bugs. They are terrestrial crustaceans that have the same habitat and colour as silverfish.
  8. Woodlice/Booklice. Woodlice are found outdoors and wood, while booklice are found in old books and study rooms. They are gray in colour, which is why they are oftentimes mistaken for silverfish. Woodlice/booklice have a long, shelled and ovate body, large, hard antennae and more legs.

Where Do Silverfish Like to Hide

Silverfish prefer to settle in secured areas such as behind furniture, damp basements and bookshelves. They hide their eggs in dark, moist, secluded parts of the homes. Their eggs are shaped like a bulk and are either yellow or white.

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How to Get Rid of Silverfish

Silverfish can multiply very quickly and can survive for a long period of time without food, making them difficult to eliminate.

Six Effective Ways to Get Rid of Silverfish Naturally

  1. Create natural bait traps using flour, dried cereal or pet food in a glass container. Don’t put the lid on and wrap the outside with tape. They will be able to use the tape to get into the container, but they won’t be able to get back out because the smooth surface of the glass will not provide any traction.
  2. Use an old, rolled up newspaper to attract silverfish. They will crawl into the newspaper and start making their homes. After a few days, either throw away the newspaper in a sealed container or burn it.Use commercially available sticky traps and place them where there is silverfish activity.
  3. Place cedar oil in a diffuser or mix several drops into a spray bottle filled with warm water and spray in areas with silverfish activity. Cedar oil is considered as an effective pest killer.
  4. Use dried bay leaves as silverfish repellent. Place a few leaves in places where you’ve seen signs of silverfish presence.
  5. Borax is another effective pest killer. Spread a thin layer of borax in places where you saw silverfish, such as the backs of cabinets, along baseboards, in closets, and underneath appliances.

To get rid of silverfish once and for all, you can use two methods: Poison or Traps.

Silverfish can be managed using poisonous pest control methods such as foggers, bombs and targeted sprats. These products are not safe for kids, pets and occupants of your household, so use it safely and occasionally.

Store-bough traps like poison should be used carefully and should never be applied in areas where children or pets are present.

All these preventive measures are effective. But if you’re still worried about silverfish in your home, or you suspect a silverfish infestation in your home, it’s best to call for professional assistance from pest control experts.

Call your local pest control company if you have or suspect you have a pest problem or would like to know more about how to protect your home from pest infestation.

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