How Do You Get Rid of Silverfish?

Identification, prevention and control

Getting rid of silverfish can be a difficult task. They are nocturnal creatures that normally roam homes late at night, in search of food and water. Their flat bodies make them ideal hiders capable of squeezing into even the smallest cracks and crevices during daylight hours.

“The common silverfish, Lepisma saccharina, is shiny, silver or pearl gray, and about 1/2 inch long, although it can grow as long as 3/4 inch. The common firebrat, Thermobia domestica is shiny, a mottled gray or brown, and about 1/2 inch long. Adults of both species are slender, wingless, soft-bodied insects with 2 long, slender antennae … Their bodies taper gradually from front to rear to 3 long, thin, tail-like appendages. Although small nymphs (those that are less than 1/8 inch long) lack scales, both large nymphs and adults have them. If you see scales around or beneath damaged items, it is a good indication that these pests are the culprits.”

How to get rid of silverfish

Before you decide how to get rid of silverfish in your home, you will have to confirm the enemy and its hiding spots. Silverfish and firebrats are both common in homes and look similar to each other. Both belong to the most primitive order of insects and are marked by carrot-shaped bodies and long antennae. Thirteen species exist in the United States. The University of California Integrated Pest Management Department identifies and distinguishes these two common types:

To get rid of silverfish, you should first monitor the infestation in your home. The University of California suggests the following:

“Since firebrats and silverfish are nocturnal, you usually won’t see them. To detect and monitor infestations, use cockroach sticky traps. You also can use small, glass jars covered on the outside with masking tape. The insects climb up the tape, fall into the jars, and can’t climb back up the slick sides. Place these traps or jars in corners and along edges where foraging is likely. Because these insects can travel long distances while looking for food, it can be difficult to pinpoint the infestation source.”

Getting rid of silverfish without insecticides

Prevention is key to avoiding many infestations. The best way to control a silverfish population and limit future infestations is to develop a prevention plan. The Entomology Department at Penn State Department of Agricultural Sciences recommends the following steps:

  • Reduce food sources. Keep cereals, flour, meal, pastas, pet foods, and pet treats in airtight containers. Vacuum carpets, flooring, and upholstered furniture regularly.

  • Reduce water sources. Use dehumidifiers in damp basements. Install plastic sheeting on the ground in dirt crawl spaces and ridge vents in roofs let humid air escape. Keep exterior areas caulked and well painted, gutters and downspouts free of debris, and landscaping graded to allow water to drain away from your home.

  • Reduce harborages. Seamless interior walls limit access to sites such as wall interiors and spaces between ceilings and walls. Bristletails can gain access to these harborages through crevices and cracks under and behind baseboards, windows, and door trim and holes in walls and floors where pipes pass. Use caulking, spackle, or expandable foam to eliminate these openings.

How to kill silverfish

Silverfish removal may sometimes require the application of insecticides. A pest management professional should always handle this type of insect control. A professional can help develop a strategy for dealing with silverfish infestations and preventing future outbreaks.

Getting rid of silverfish may be a challenge best left to the experts. If you are concerned about a silverfish infestation in your home, call Terminix®.