Introduction to Silverfish

Silverfish are small, wingless, flat insects with a silvery color. They are notable for their long antennae, which are often curved backwards, and the three bristles that extend from the end of their body. Besides being a nuisance, silverfish can, over a long period of time and in large numbers, damage valuable household contents.

Recognizing Silverfish

Similar to the firebrat, but distinguished by the silvery sheen that gives it its name, the silverfish is thought to have originated in the Palaeozoic Era. It is about 0.4” (1.02 cm) long, and is most often found around sinks, plumbing, and in tubs and sinks. They are nocturnal and run around actively at night.

Besides being a wiggly intruder in the bathroom, silverfish are also problematic because of the dietary habits. Their search for carbohydrates leads them to eat flour, sugar, starch, paper including books and wallpaper, gum, glue, fabrics including cotton, linen, and rayon, molds, and cereal products. Besides eating these products, they may also leave stains.

Ridding Your Home of Silverfish

Once you identify silverfish in your home you need to decide what form of treatment to use, if any. A single insect or only a few may not require the homeowner to take steps, though eliminating any moisture problems would be a good move in any case. Checking around the tub, sink, and toilet for any leaks or condensation is worth doing, keeping areas well ventilated and introducing a dehumidifier, if it seems warranted. In any case, it is important to eliminate food sources if possible, as well as use some substance that will kill them.

If the infestation is larger, there are several steps to take. First, take steps to minimize damage in household valuables, such as books, records, and other papers, as well as fabrics. Clear off bookshelves, vacuum both the books and the shelves, and carefully dispose of the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic garbage bag. When the items are clear of silverfish, seal them in plastic or boxes sealed with tape if you wish to keep them safe until all or most of the silverfish are gone.

The next step, treating the problem will depend on whether there are children and animals in the house. Suggested remedies range from the non-toxic application of cloves to the area, to dusting the area with boric acid or Epsom salts.

Stronger alternatives include pesticides, often ant and roach spray. For safety, do not place or spray chemical substances in or around books, papers, or textiles, which may be damaged by them and which someone might unknowingly come in contact with.

Written by Mary Elizabeth

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