What Attracts Silverfish? 6 Common Causes of Silverfish

If you're lying awake at night, searching the world wide web for clues on what attracts silverfish, rest assured that it's not you.

The most frustrating part of trying to deal with any kind of insect or pest infestation is the worry that your home is unclean, hiding something sinister or just a natural habitat for the home-invaders in question.

But if you sidestep the worrisome neuroses that come with spotting a many-legged intruder in your living room, you’ll realize that it’s much simpler than that. It’s likely that there are a few easy to miss aspects of your house or home life that simply attract particular beasties that can be easily repaired.

The first step is understanding the pest, however and with silverfish that means reading up on what causes silverfish to enter our homes. So let’s jump right into it.

What attracts silverfish? Moisture.

Like most common insects, bugs and arachnids; silverfish are always on the lookout for somewhere with ample moisture. This is why you’ll commonly find spiders, scorpions, silverfish and so on hanging around your bathroom or kitchen like it’s their local street corner.

It’s also worth noting that silverfish are prolific procreators (what else are they going to do with their time?) and seek out moist, damp areas as breeding grounds for their vulnerable and needy offspring.

Always check your plumbing and pipework to make sure no leakages are present and that no unwanted moisture is making its way into the home; a good habit to develop for the general wellbeing of your home, regardless of bugs!

All that being said; they are very adaptable and hardy little creatures. Although a damp and dingy environment is ideal for them, really they only need a humid climate in order to thrive – so it might be less a case of your home letting water in, or having leaky pipes, but rather that your local environment or climate is working against you.

Try to keep your house as dry and warm as possible to avoid any unwanted guests with a predilection for dank conditions. Leave the curtains open to invite in sunlight and consider investing in a dehumidifier if you live in a hot, humid area.

What attracts silverfish? Food!

Would you willingly move into a neighborhood with no food source nearby? Well, yeah, maybe you would but you have a car and about twenty take-out apps on your phone; silverfish don’t.

They can’t afford to be picky about their locale – if there’s food, they’ll set up shop. The issue with this is that silverfish kind of have a taste for everything, or at least some of the weirder stuff you keep at home.

Starting with the more normal: they like to feed on stuff that is very high in sugars and starch, which means they can often find their way into your pantry to munch on the cereals, oats, flour and even adhesives and glues that you might have stored away.

It’s this latter culinary habit that can often lead them into your cardboard storage boxes: it’s not uncommon to find silverfish chowing down on book bindings, paper itself and old photos – which is why they’re often a problem for storage businesses and the like. 

One of the smartest things you can do is to take away an obvious food source for silverfish by getting rid of cardboard boxes altogether and storing your stuff in sealed tight, plastic containers. ​

If they get truly desperate, they might even sink their teeth into leather goods or some of your finer, lighter clothing. Cottons, linens and silks suit their tastebuds better than heavier fabrics so look for evidence on those. 

Mothballs are a simple, elegant solution to keep silverfish out of your clothes.​

Now, don’t worry, it won’t be the case that silverfish are going to travel great distances to infest your house due to your fashion choices. It’s much more likely that your food cupboards or some of your DIY materials have been left to stagnate for too long and the quiet, starchy/sugary rich materials present a feast.

What attracts silverfish? Tranquility.

Which brings us nicely on to the next major silverfish attraction: peace and quiet. Silverfish are very shy and reluctant little critters by default – they’re nocturnal, lack much in the way of weaponry or defense and can run like Forrest Gump if they’re given half a chance.

This works in tandem with their very malleable bodies, allowing them to squeeze into terrifically tight and cramped spaces or crevices around the home (some of which you might not even know exist!).

Ideally, for the talented silverfish, you would never even know it’s sharing a home with you – which means that you need to take extra care to look out for them.

Inspect cracks and crevices around damper areas of the home (bathroom, garage, basement, kitchen etc.) and older boxes or storage that might’ve been left unattended for years or more… Remember all those childhood heirlooms you shoved into the attic way back when? Might be worth a quick look!

Even better - set up silverfish traps around those area that are most likely to attract silverfish. If you find some stuck to them a few days later, you'll know for certain that you've got a silverfish infestation on your hands.

What attracks silverfish? Dark, temperate spaces.

what attracts silverfish

Now, although they enjoy humid temperatures and environments, silverfish are actually quite adverse to stifling hot or bright environments – summer is their hell. In the warmer months, you’re more likely to find them in the lower down, darker, dingier spaces in your home, rather than the hot attic.

Throughout the winter months, they love to live anywhere that sees little to no light, little disturbance from predators (which you are) and with ample moisture or food if possible… Sound like anywhere in your home? Why is it always the basements that contain the horrors?

What attracts silverfish? Grimy stuff and dirty places.

how to get rid of silverfish

Again, when they’re in really dire straits, silverfish have been known to alter their diets and feed upon other insects and organic matter (sometimes even disgusting stuff like human hair). This means that, like a lot of bugs and creepy crawlies, the more garbage that builds up, or filth that accumulates around your home, the more it begins to feel like a fast-food joint for them.

Do your best to keep on top of household cleaning and tidying up; a little can go a long way in eradicating the threat of pests. Don’t let garbage build up over long periods of time, and vigilantly clean up any food scraps or crumbs that might drop into crevices and cracks.

If your skin isn’t crawling thinking about that space behind your cooker/oven, then you’re either a much braver person than I, or you already keep a militantly clean kitchen.

Either way, congratulations!

Sometimes it’s just bad luck...

All of these attractions notwithstanding, sometimes silverfish can make their way into the home through no fault of your own. Groceries, construction materials, plants, gardening supplies etc. have all been known to harbor the odd silverfish.

Always double check anything you may be suspicious of before bringing it into your home; it can feel twice as horrible to notice a silverfish infestation or invasion when you already keep a rigorously clean house!

So, you see, there’s really no need for the hazmat suit and flamethrower – keeping unwanted silverfish out of the home can be as simple as changing the domestic temperature or airing out old boxes now and again.

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