The need to fight silverfish occurs only in extreme situations, when these insects become a nuisance. Here we present various tips and methods that can help you. However, it is far more important not only to fight the silverfish themselves, but most importantly to eradicate the cause of their appearance – namely, high humidity or even mold infestation! If you follow our tips, you will soon get rid of the unwanted little animals.

How to get rid of silverfish: What home remedies are effective?

Sugar, flour, honey or potato peels can serve as bait to lure silverfish out of your hiding places and trap them. Alternatively, you can drive the insects away with the scent of lavender.

How do silverfish get into homes? Although silverfish normally live in damp plumbing and drains, they will leave these environments if high humidity or mold is present in a home. Because of their aversion to light, these nocturnal insects hide in joints, cracks, and crevices in the floor during the day. Therefore, most people will see them crawling around late at night when the lights are turned on in the bathroom or kitchen.

Should silverfish be killed?

No. In particular, you should avoid baking soda to get rid of silverfish. The baking soda will cause the silverfish to swell up and die in agony. As a rule, it is not necessary to kill silverfish, as they are just annoying pests. Unlike other pests, they do not transmit diseases and do not pose a direct threat to humans. However, this does not apply to possible causes of a silverfish infestation. High humidity and mold in rooms, on the other hand, may very well be harmful to health. Therefore, it is more effective to fight the cause instead of eliminating the silverfish themselves. In this way, you also prevent a new infestation.

How to recognize silverfish

Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) belong to the group of fish (Zygentoma) within the insect class and reach a length of about 0.5 inch. Colloquially, the animals are sometimes called “sugar dwellers” because of their preference for carbohydrates and sugars.

Scientists believe that silverfish have existed on earth for 300 million years and have hardly changed in appearance. Their most characteristic feature is the silver scales on their outer skin, which give the animals a metallic sheen and give them their name. These scales appear only after the third molt. Silverfish molt up to eight times before they are sexually mature, and usually undergo four more molt-related developmental stages after that.

Paperfish (Ctenolepisma longicaudatum) resemble silverfish, but are larger and have significantly more hairs on their abdomen. These paper-eating fish prefer much drier environments, unlike silverfish. Silverfish have two shorter tactile antennae at the back of their bodies, six legs, two longer filamentous tactile antennae on their heads, and numerous touch-sensitive organs along their bodies. They prefer to hide in darkness and generally have a lifespan of two to eight years.

Where silverfish hide

Silverfish are rarely seen during the day, as they prefer the dark and are nocturnal. It is advisable to regularly check crevices and cracks in the apartment. These insects are especially comfortable in the kitchen, windowless pantries and bathrooms. Occasionally, they can also be found behind skirting boards, baseboards or under loose wallpaper. Because of their preference for warm and moist hiding places, you should also check laundry rooms and look behind refrigerators if you suspect them.

The ideal environment for silverfish is a room temperature between 68 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 30 °C) and humidity of 80 to 90 percent. A temperature of 68 to 86 degrees is required to allow the development of eggs, which silverfish females usually lay in crevices or cracks. Therefore, in summer the number of silverfish increases, while at cooler temperatures there is no reproduction. If the temperature remains constant at 68 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 20 °C) for more than a year, the animals reach full development after 12 months and undergo about four molts each year.

Silverfish in the apartment: what do they feed on?

As the scientific name “Lepisma saccharina” already reveals, silverfish prefer starchy materials such as adhesives, photographs, book covers as well as sugar. They also feed on hair, dander, dust mites, cotton, linen, silk, paper, and synthetic fibers. Molds are a delicacy for silverfish. Since silverfish are shy of light, they seek their food in the dark. Even when food is scarce, these finicky insects can survive for several months. Silverfish have only two natural enemies: earwigs and spiders.

Fighting silverfish: is it even necessary?

If silverfish only appear occasionally in your home, it is not necessary to take immediate action. The use of an exterminator is not necessary, since these insects do not transmit diseases and are harmless to humans. However, a high incidence of silverfish in the bathroom or kitchen often indicates other problems: silverfish serve as an indicator of moisture problems or a serious mold infestation in the home, which should be treated urgently. Removing mold will usually also cause the silverfish to disappear. In the case of a serious silverfish infestation, consulting a pest control professional is advisable.

Tips for controlling silverfish: Effective home remedies

If silverfish increase in the house or even become a nuisance, you should act. There are several ways you can take action against these insects. Home remedies are particularly suitable for sporadic occurrences of silverfish. They are inexpensive, non-toxic and therefore harmless to humans and pets. Moreover, they do the least harm to the insects: most home remedies do not kill silverfish, but drive them out of their hiding places. Lavender, for example, is a recommended option, as the smell is unpleasant for silverfish, which makes them disappear on their own. The same applies to lemon. Silverfish are also not at all fond of the smell of citrus. If you want to protect a room or an area, you can use mop water with vinegar cleaner or a lot of vinegar. Because even vinegar does not like the tiny flitters.

Another method is to use a homemade bait. You can sprinkle kitchen paper with sugar or flour and lay it out overnight in the affected rooms. Since silverfish prefer sweet things, you will find them on the paper the next morning. Cardboard boxes with the peels of a potato will perform the same function, as the scent will attract silverfish.

A homemade sticky trap is another option. For this, spread some honey on a piece of paper and place the trap near the suspected hiding place of the insects. Overnight, the silverfish will stick to it. The next morning you can dispose of the sticky trap together with the insects.

Biological and chemical means against silverfish

In stores you can find biological traps, such as bait boxes or special silverfish traps. These contain a combination of starchy baits and toxins that lead to their death. You should resort to chemical agents and insecticides only in exceptional cases. These substances often pose a health hazard to humans as well. For example, although ammonia water is effective against silverfish, the vapor has corrosive and irritating properties that can affect not only the insects but also people. The most effective measure against silverfish infestation is to eliminate causes of high humidity or mold.

Prevention tips: How to avoid silverfish

  • Proper ventilation: Regular airing prevents high humidity in the house. Several short ventilation phases are more effective than long ventilation with tilted windows. A dehumidifier can also be helpful, for example in an interior windowless bathroom.
  • Drying laundry: Avoid drying laundry in living rooms or bathrooms. This causes increased moisture buildup, which in turn attracts silverfish.
  • Cleanliness and hygiene: keep your home clean and dust-free to prevent silverfish from making themselves at home. Regularly clean drains through which silverfish might enter.
  • Seal gaps and cracks: Seal gaps, cracks and crevices to minimize hiding places for silverfish. Seal gaps with silicone and check that windows, bathtubs and roofs are well sealed.

In summary, eliminating causes such as high humidity or mold is much more effective in the long run than controlling silverfish.