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Silverfish Infestations – Finding the “Hot Spots”

By Chris Williams on October 5, 2011.

Q. We keep finding silverfish in various rooms, but especially the bathroom. What do they feed on? I thought they were predators on other insects but I don’t see any other bugs in my bathrooms.

A. No, silverfish are not predators. They will feed on other insects if they are already dead or injured. Because silverfish are scavengers like cockroaches, there are many things in a typical home that they can feed on. And it doesn’t even have to be “people food;” they’re just as happy digesting a good book!

silverfishSilverfish prefer starchy or cellulose materials including paper, photographs, glue, paste, book bindings, gummed labels, postage stamps, paper money, and wallpaper. Silverfish usually graze on the surface of the paper. Their rasping mouthparts will remove the glaze on the paper, leaving a dull finish.

Silverfish can also chew irregular notched holes in paper or fabrics (especially rayon). They also feed on animal skins, leather and human foods. But they can survive up to a year without any kind of food and need almost no water. Their droppings and body scales leave yellowish stains on papers and fabrics.

You, or a pest control professional, should conduct a complete inspection to find the silverfish “hot spots” in your home, places where the infestation is concentrated. If the infestation has been going on for some time, it may be widespread throughout your house.

·        Start the inspection by checking books and other materials that have been in storage and undisturbed for a long time. The attic is a prime spot for silverfish and you’ll probably have to look inside cardboard boxes to find them.

·        Also concentrate the inspection on items that are in the dampest and darkest parts of a room. Check any books or papers that haven’t been handled in a long time, especially those on the bottom shelf or in corners. Get rid of any stored newspapers, paper bags, or magazines.

·        Empty and discard all cardboard boxes used for storage. Use plastic bins instead. Cardboard is prime silverfish habitat. It holds moisture and has layers in which silverfish can hide and lay their eggs. You’ll probably see speckled fecal droppings on the cardboard.

·        Concentrate your inspection in any areas where there have been moisture problems or where humidity is high—areas near roof leaks, plumbing leaks, heavy condensation, under sinks, laundry rooms, near damp plaster or drywall, or where there is moisture trapped in walls or subflooring.

·        For clothing and other fabrics, check seams and inside pockets and cuffs. Check any starched clothes. Store unused clothes and fabrics in plastic tubs and make sure they are clean when stored.

·        Remember that silverfish, like cockroaches, will feed on all types of human food, too. They prefer foods high in carbohydrates and protein. Check foods like flour, cereals, and dried meat.

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