What Do Silverfish Feed On?

By Chris Williams on December 2, 2016.

I’ve just realized that we seem to have a silverfish problem. I’ve seen a couple in the bathroom at night and also found one inside a cookbook. Can you tell me what they feed on so I know what to do to get rid of them? L. Y., Amesbury, MA

Eliminating the food sources could be difficult since silverfish will feed on almost anything. They do prefer starchy or cellulose materials and are primarily pests of old papers, books, and some fabrics.

13 Possible Food Sources for Silverfish in Homes

  1. papers (especially onionskin or glazed papers)
  2. old books (especially stored in damp settings)
  3. photographs (especially old photos glued into an album)
  4. glue or paste
  5. book bindings (especially glued bindings)
  6. gummed labels
  7. gummed postage stamps
  8. paper money
  9. wallpaper
  10. fabrics (especially starched or stained fabrics)
  11. skins and leather
  12. people food (especially foods high in carbs or proteins)
  13. dead insects

Silverfish damage to paper products is pretty identifiable since they tend to graze on the surface of the paper, rasping off the glaze and leaving a dull finish. They can also chew irregular holes in both papers and fabrics. Their fecal droppings and body scales leave yellowish stains on items. Silverfish usually prefer to feed on materials that are already stained with perspiration, body oils, or food. That’s probably why a well-used cookbook would be attractive to a silverfish.

Silverfish and Cockroaches Have Similar Habits

Silverfish can survive up to a year without food and need almost no water. Their habits are similar to cockroaches. They hide during the day in cracks and crevices, avoiding light, and are active at night. They run quickly in a darting manner. The common silverfish likes high temperatures and high humidity (that’s why you found them in the bathroom) but other silverfish species are not as restricted.

Silverfish can easily build up to high numbers, unseen, given the right conditions. Control of silverfish is similar to control for cockroaches and, like cockroaches, silverfish shouldn’t be ignored. Contact Colonial Pest for an inspection and control program.

For more on silverfish, check out these Colonial blogs:

Photo Credit : By Micha L. RieserOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link



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