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Silverfish – What Are They and What Do They Do?

By Chris Williams on February 5, 2014.
Close up shot of silverfish

Close up shot of a silverfish

I’ve never been too bothered by seeing a few silverfish in my home, but they sure do creep a lot of people out.

It seemed I would always find them in the bathroom at the house I grew up in.   It never seemed like there were very many of them, and sometimes months would go by before I’d see one sitting motionless on the wall or in the tub.  The same is pretty much true at my home today.  I know they are there, and I’m reminded of that by the one that crawled inside a framed piece of artwork and is now permanently on display! Since silverfish are primarily nocturnal, I don’t see them much at all. (Not up prowling around my house at night!)

What Are They and What Do They Do?

Silverfish belong to a ‘primitive’ insect order known as Thysanura.  They are completely wingless insects, generally silvery grey to grayish brown in color and covered in fine scales.  Adult silverfish range anywhere from ½ to 3/4inch in length with long slender antennae and three long bristles at the posterior end of its body.  Probably the two most often encountered species are the common silver fish, (Lepisma saccharina), and the firebrat, (Thermobia domestica) belong to the family Lepismatidae.

In the home, they spend their day in seclusion hiding underneath objects or in behind a baseboard and then coming out at night to feed upon starchy materials like book bindings, wall paper paste, flour, etc.  They can be serious pests of antique books.

Successful management of silver fish usually requires a combination of different tactics including reducing humidity/and or increasing ventilation in damp areas where they’re found like laundry rooms or bathrooms.  Thorough cleaning can go along way towards reducing food sources in these areas too.  Reducing paper clutter (I used to collect and store old car magazines. Why?) Keeping panty items stored in food containers can further reduce food sources for silverfish.  Chemical controls are another tool that should be part of any silverfish management problem.  The pros at Colonial Pest Control can design a plan to help manage silverfish in your homeGive us a call!

Photo credit: Wanderin’ Weeta / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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