By Chris Williams on May 31, 2017.

I think we just discovered silverfish in our attic! We’ve never had them before but something has been chewing on some old photo albums that we have stored up there. Can you tell me what they look like? J. P., Boston, MA

I never really thought about how silverfish got their name but they do look rather fish-like from the top, maybe more catfish-like because of their long antennae that resemble catfish “whiskers.” Silverfish are shaped like an elongated teardrop, wider near the head and tapering to 3 “tails” at the rear end. They’re about ½-inch long, with 6 legs and no wings and, of course, they’re silvery although the silvery scales can be rubbed off, leaving them looking more gray or brown.


  1. Habits are similar to cockroaches in that they hide in cracks and crevices during the day and are active at night.
  2. Runs rapidly in a darting manner.
  3. Immature silverfish look like adults, only smaller.
  4. Feeds on a variety of items but prefers foods high in starch, sugar, or protein
  5. Papers, books, wallpaper, and starched clothing can be damaged.
  6. Feeding removes surface glaze from papers or leaves irregular, notched holes in paper or fabric.
  7. Body scales and droppings can leave yellowish stains on papers or fabrics.
  8. Can also be a food pest, feeding on flour, cereal, dry pet food, etc.
  9. Found in same kinds of hidden places where you would find cockroaches.
  10. Can survive for months without feeding.


Damage to photos in an attic would be a typical silverfish scenario. They are actually attracted to and feeding on the glue behind the photos or on photo tabs, glue in the album binding, or sizing on the paper pages of the album. Storing valuable papers or other items in cardboard boxes in dark areas is a perfect draw for silverfish. The corrugations in the box provide hiding places and egg laying sites and glued seams on the boxes may even provide nourishment.

As with cockroaches, it can take some time and expertise to track down silverfish in all their hiding places. Give Colonial Pest a call. Our technicians will inspect your home and can treat your attic and any other infested areas for silverfish. You may want to dry clean fabric items stored there and help protect other valuables by storing them in plastic tubs with tight-fitting lids once they are certified silverfish-free.

These Colonial blogs may answer additional questions about silverfish:

Photo Credit : By Christian Fischer, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link



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