Though silverfish are not physically harmful to humans, an infestation often means damage to clothing, books, textiles, wallpaper, walls and furniture--not to mention their creepy appearance which many find unsettling. These wingless insects are long, flat and slender, silver in color and move across surfaces much like a fish swimming through water. Because they feed on starchy substances, they're attracted to such items as book glue, wallpaper paste, insulation, cardboard boxes and, unfortunately, your breakfast cereal. Fortunately, there are several lethal and non-lethal steps you can take to rid your home of these pests.
Silverfish live and multiply in damp, warm environments, such as basements, bathrooms, laundry rooms and kitchens. They can't, however, survive in dry places. So, fixing all leaks, using a dehumidifier and ventilating damp rooms to control moisture in your home creates an unfavorable environment.
Tidiness is also key. Silverfish love stacks of newspaper, piles of laundry, old cardboard boxes and starchy crumbs left on the floor. Vacuum regularly, including cracks and crevices where silverfish like to hide. Get rid of cardboard boxes and replace them with plastic storage containers. And store starchy foods, such as cereal and sugar, in plastic containers as well. Be sure to rinse residues from sinks and showers after use as well. Silverfish feed on the ingredients found in soaps and shampoos.
Unlike ants and termites, silverfish don't live in nests, so each insect must come into contact with any insecticide you use to be affected. Spray or sprinkle insecticides in crevices, cracks, around insulation, inside walls, around water heaters or anywhere silverfish live, eat and breed.
Effective insecticides include diatomaceous earth, boric acid, borax and a variety of insecticide sprays and powders. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is a popular option due to its safety around humans and pets. In fact, it is sometimes incorporated into the diets of pets to rid them of internal parasites. Boric acid is another safe option. It is low in toxicity and offers long-lasting protection. Borax, insecticide sprays and swimming pool-grade diatomaceous earth, on the other hand, can be harmful to small children and pets, so please use care with these products.
Traps and baits are another option. Use storebought cockroach traps, or make some at home using index cards coated in a flour and water paste.