A-1 Pest Control North Carolina

What Are Silverfish? 7 Proven Prevention Methods

As their name suggests, silverfish are small, wingless, silvery insects with tapering bodies that more closely resemble very small fish than they do other pests. While they are harmless, spotting a silverfish in your home might be indicative of underlying issues and potential damage to your belongings, including excess moisture which can be a sign of leaks.

Let's take a closer look at these questions: 1. What are silverfish? 2. Are silverfish harmful? 3. How do you keep silverfish away from your home?

What Are Silverfish? 

Silverfish are aptly named for their silvery, metallic appearance and their fish-like bodies and wiggling, almost aquatic movements. Typically measuring between half an inch to one inch in length, these nocturnal creatures have elongated antennae and three tail-like appendages that resemble antennae, making them easy to spot. 

Habitat and Behavior

Now that we've answered "What are silverfish?" let's learn their habitat and behavior. Silverfish thrive in dark, damp environments, so they are commonly found in bathrooms, kitchens, basements, and other areas with high humidity levels. These resilient insects are capable of surviving in various conditions, but they prefer temperatures between 70-80°F.

Their diet consists mainly of starchy substances, including carbohydrates and sugars. Silverfish are known to feed on a variety of items commonly found in homes, such as paper, glue, textiles, and even certain food items like cereals. Their nocturnal habits make them adept at avoiding detection, as they scavenge for food during the cover of night.


Silverfish undergo a gradual metamorphosis, with three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. Female silverfish lay small batches of eggs in secluded areas, and the hatched nymphs resemble miniature adults. As they grow, silverfish shed their exoskeletons, a process known as molting, allowing them to mature into the adult stage.

What Are Silverfish Infestation Signs

What are silverfish infestation signs? Knowing where to look for them will help you spot a silverfish infestation. Look in the quiet corners and hidden recesses of your home because silverfish can go undetected for extended periods, leaving behind subtle clues. Knowing how to spot those signs is crucial for early detection and effective pest control. 

Nocturnal Sightings

Silverfish are nocturnal creatures, preferring the cover of darkness to explore and forage for food. If you spot these silvery insects scurrying away when you turn on the lights at night, it's a strong indication of more where that came from.

Feeding Damage

Silverfish have a voracious appetite for starchy materials, and their diet includes paper, books, cardboard, and clothing. If you notice irregular holes, notches, or chewed edges on these items, it could be a sign of a silverfish infestation.

Shed Exoskeletons 

As silverfish grow, they shed their exoskeletons in a process called molting. The discarded exoskeletons resemble the insect itself, often found in secluded areas where silverfish hide. Discovering these translucent exoskeletons is a clear indication of silverfish activity.

Yellow Stains and Feces

Silverfish leave behind distinctive signs in the form of yellow stains and feces. These markings are often found on surfaces where silverfish travel or feed. If you observe tiny yellowish stains or dark fecal matter resembling pepper, it's time to investigate for a potential infestation.

Presence of Silverfish Scales

Silverfish scales, tiny reflective flakes that fall off the insect's body, may be visible in areas where silverfish are active. These scales can be found near feeding sites or in corners where silverfish hide.

Unexplained Allergies

In some cases, prolonged exposure to silverfish allergens may lead to allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. If you or your family members experience unexplained allergic symptoms, it could be worth investigating for a silverfish infestation.

Musty Odor

Silverfish emit a musty odor, which may become more noticeable in areas with a significant infestation. If you detect an unusual smell in certain parts of your home, it could be associated with silverfish activity.

Holes in Clothing

Silverfish may feed on natural fibers found in clothing, such as cotton and linen. Check for small holes or damage on clothing items stored in dark, undisturbed areas.

If you observe one or more of these signs, it's advisable to take prompt action to address the silverfish infestation. 

What Are Silverfish Prevention & Control Strategies

While they are harmless to humans, silverfish can be a nuisance when they invade our homes and start feeding on our paper, clothing, and even food. Let's answer what attracts silverfish before diving into proper prevention tactics.

Moisture Control

Silverfish thrive in humid environments, so reducing moisture levels in your home is crucial. Use dehumidifiers in damp areas like basements, encapsulate your crawl space, and air out your bathrooms. Fix any leaks promptly, and ensure proper ventilation to discourage silverfish from making themselves at home. Now that you know what attracts silverfish, how can you properly prevent them? Let's continue.

Sealing Entry Points

Silverfish can enter your home through small cracks and crevices. Ensure your window seals don't have gaps, and seal openings under doors using caulk or weatherstripping. Pay special attention to areas where pipes or wiring enter the home, as these can be potential entry points.

Proper Storage

What are silverfish attracted to apart from small crevices and cracks in entry points? Silverfish are attracted to starches and sugars found in many pantry items. Store food in airtight containers, and keep pantry items off the floor. Additionally, store clothing, books, and other susceptible items in sealed plastic containers to prevent silverfish infestation.

Regular Cleaning

Eliminate potential food sources for silverfish by maintaining a clean and clutter-free home. Regularly vacuum carpets, sweep floors, and dust surfaces to remove crumbs and other enticing particles. Pay extra attention to areas where paper accumulates, such as bookshelves and storage boxes.

Natural Repellents

Certain natural substances act as repellents for silverfish. Diatomaceous earth, cedar oil, and cinnamon are examples of natural deterrents that can be sprinkled in areas prone to infestation. These substances create inhospitable conditions for silverfish without posing harm to humans or pets.

Chemical Treatments

In cases of severe infestations, chemical treatments may be necessary. Insecticides formulated specifically for silverfish can be applied to cracks, crevices, and other hiding spots. It's crucial to follow the manufacturer's instructions and take appropriate safety precautions when using these products.

Professional Pest Control

If the infestation persists despite your efforts, consider seeking the services of a professional pest control company like A-1 Pest Control. Experienced technicians can assess the extent of the problem and implement targeted treatments to eliminate silverfish from your home.

Silverfish FAQ

Why do you get silverfish?

Silverfish are attracted to environments that provide them with suitable conditions for survival. They are particularly drawn to areas with high humidity levels and abundant food sources. Common attractants include damp basements, bathrooms, and kitchens, where moisture and food particles are readily available. 

Are silverfish harmful?

Silverfish are just as harmless as centipedes. While they do not transmit diseases, their presence can be a cause for concern. These pests can damage books, papers, clothing, and other items in your home. Their rapid reproduction rate can also lead to a significant infestation if left unchecked. 

What do silverfish turn into?

Silverfish undergo a simple metamorphosis with three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. The eggs are laid in secluded areas with high humidity, and once hatched, the nymphs resemble smaller versions of the adults. As they grow, silverfish molt several times before reaching maturity. Unlike many other insects, silverfish do not have a distinct pupal stage in their development. The adults continue to molt throughout their lives, with each molt resulting in a larger and more mature silverfish.

Do silverfish go in beds?

Silverfish are not typically known for infesting beds or bedding materials. Their preference for dark, damp areas with abundant food sources leads them to hide in cracks, crevices, and secluded spaces in homes. While they may occasionally be found in bedrooms, they are more commonly associated with areas where paper, clothing, and food crumbs are present. 

How to Prevent Silverfish

Answering the questions, “What are silverfish” and “What attracts silverfish” can make it easier to understand and predict the behaviors of these slippery, shiny insects. But if you think you might be dealing with a silverfish infestation, you can always turn to the professionals at A-1 Pest Control for quick and effective pest control solutions. While our main office is in Lenoir, North Carolina, we also service Blowing Rock, Mooresville, Hickory, West Jefferson, Asheville, and Hendersonville. Contact A-1 Pest Control today at  828-481-9140 to schedule a FREE inspection, or fill out the contact form below.

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