Three Basic Questions About the Habits of Silverfish

By Chris Williams on October 2, 2015.

1. What do silverfish feed on?

Like cockroaches, silverfish are omnivores, meaning that they will feed on a variety of things, but they particularly like foods that are high in protein or starch. This appetite for starchy things means they can be found feeding on starched fabrics or fabrics that are stained with perspiration, urine, or food stains, and on glazed papers or onionskin. They may nibble on paper items with paste or glue backings such as postage stamps, old photos, gummed labels, book bindings, wallpaper, or drywall. Silverfish also feed on carbohydrates like flour, cereals, oatmeal, and on proteins such as dead insects, dried meat, even leather.


2. Where do silverfish live?

Most silverfish can live and reproduce both outside and inside. In homes, they have habits similar to cockroaches – they are active at night and hide during the day in dark cracks and crevices. Because they are flattened, like a cockroach, they can squeeze into narrow spaces and also hide in wall or ceiling voids, or virtually anywhere.

Some silverfish are attracted to damp sites so they can be found in basements, laundry rooms, under sinks, near pipes, and near still damp plaster or drywall. Because they feed on glue or starch in papers, they can be found in libraries or on bookshelves. Because they can feed on starchy fabrics, they can be found in boxes of stored clothing. In fact, cardboard boxes (especially with glued seams) are a favorite hiding place for silverfish and should not be used to store clothes or valuable books or papers if silverfish are an issue.


3. What does silverfish damage look like?

When feeding on starchy papers, silverfish may remove the glaze from the surface of the paper, leaving a dull look. They can also leave irregular notched holes in the edges of papers or in fabrics. They prefer light-weight fabrics like linen or rayon, so damage to heavy fabrics or woolens is probably not from silverfish. Perhaps most noticeable are the black pepper-like fecal droppings and yellowish stains from their body scales. The yellowish stains on paper or fabric are a key characteristic of silverfish damage.

Silverfish are often attic pests and can build up to high numbers in stored items that are rarely disturbed. Trying to control silverfish on your own when they are hiding in packing materials and cracks and crevices is difficult. Contact a professional pest management company like Colonial Pest.


For more information on silverfish, check out these Colonial blogs:



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