You have itchy, inflamed skin. You remember spotting a silverfish a couple days ago. And now you can’t stop wondering: do silverfish bite?
The last thing we want is for you to be lying awake at night, itching and scratching while miserably doomscrolling anecdotal accounts of people suffering silverfish bites.
Because yes, the prospect of a silverfish is truly disgusting. And the thought of one biting you is equally disturbing. But actually, there are worse things in life. Like, wondering if it’s a bed bug bite, for example. With those, you’re in for a hell of a ride. With silverfish? Not so much.
Now, don’t get us wrong – silverfish are creepy. Even by the standards of bugs, these things are super ugly. Maybe it’s the way they move, seeming to wriggle across the floor at frightening speeds. Maybe it’s the long, bristly antenna that rise from both their heads and their rear.
Whatever it is, silverfish are no one’s idea of a welcome houseguest.
But there’s one thing they very rarely do: bite.
Do Silverfish Bite Humans?
Silverfish are not good roommates to have. And they can cause a lot of damage to your home and belongings. But do they bite? The short answer is no.
- Silverfish have weak jaws that are are more suited to chew or scrape at surfaces, not to give a good, strong bite.
- These pests don’t drink blood, which is why their jaws are more adapted to scraping food sources than piercing human skin. In fact, silverfish are carb-lovers that prefer sugary, starchy foods. Not humans.
- When disturbed or threatened, a silverfish’s only real response is to run, using their impressive speed to get them out of danger and into the nearest crack or crevice. Yeah, I said it. Silverfish are cowards.
If the bites that you’re getting are indeed silverfish bites, it means that the silverfish infestation in your home is getting out of hand and you need to treat it ASAP.
What are Silverfish Bite Symptoms?
In the rare instances that silverfish bite humans, you will definitely feel it. Despite their weak mandibles, silverfish bites are just strong enough to be noticed. Here are some ways people have described a silverfish bite:
- A sharp pinch
- Being poked by a cactus needle
- Sharp pain like an ant bite
But whereas the initial bite may be a bit painful, the worst thing that can happen from a silverfish bite is that they will itch for a day or so, if at all. Overall, silverfish bites are generally harmless, much like the pest itself.
The only time you need to worry about a silverfish bite is if you have silverfish allergies.
Do You Have Silverfish Allergies?
Silverfish, like many insects, have a tough exoskeleton that is incapable of growing. In order for a silverfish to grow, or if it just feels like freshening up its look, it needs to shed its skin.
These shed skins, as well as the feces that silverfish leave behind, have been known to trigger allergic reactions in some people. Those who are most affected are people, especially small children, who are allergic to shellfish and dust mites.
The connection all comes down to an allergen called tropomyosin which can be found in shellfish like shrimp, house dust mites, cockroaches, as well as silverfish.
Silverfish allergies usually take the form of respiratory problems rather than skin problems. If you’re allergic, you’ll likely experience symptoms like rhinitis, nose inflammation and other respiratory issues.
But it may also go further than that. If you’re also finding itchy red patches of skin and you know you have a silverfish infestation, it might be worth investigating the possibility that you’re allergic.
Note: People with silverfish allergies are much more likely to have a severe allergic reaction to a silverfish bite. It can even lead to anaphylactic shock in the most extreme cases.
Is It a Silverfish Bite or Another Bug?
Unless you have a severe silverfish infestation on your hands, the bites that you’re getting are most likely not silverfish bites.
Silverfish are a very common household pest and a lot of people who have them also report finding small insect bites on their skin. It’s tempting when you find yourself being bitten to blame it on the first bug you see.
And sure, silverfish can cause their share of problems, but silverfish probably aren’t the culprit here. In most cases, the silverfish was most likely an innocent bystander and your brain is making the most convenient connection.
So what else could it be? Pests that can and do bite humans. Here are the most likely culprits:
Depending on the season, it could be mosquitoes rather than silverfish that are biting you. Since mosquitoes are most active at dusk, they can bite you without you ever seeing them. And it can take a while for your skin to react to the bite.
Unlike silverfish, fleas have to bite mammals to eat and survive. And they’ll bite people quite happily. Even if you don’t have a cat or a dog, it’s possible that you might have fleas.
Fleas are visible to the naked eye, but just barely so, which is why they might’ve escaped notice. They look almost like a grain of pepper. But a grain of pepper with legs.
An easy way to check if you have fleas is to set up a table lamp above a bowl of water with just a little dish soap inside. Leave the lamp shining on the bowl overnight. The fleas will jump towards the light and get stuck in the bowl.
Yes, bedbugs are real. And yes, they do bite. While these horrible little monsters are visible to the naked eye, about the size and shape of an apple seed, they are nocturnal and are extremely good at hiding. They also have the ability to bite you without you feeling a thing.
So it’s quite possible to have bed bugs without knowing it, at least in the early stages of an infestation. And having a clean home doesn’t mean you can’t have bed bugs. These bloodsuckers don’t discriminate.
To rule out the possibility of bed bugs, do a thorough inspection of your bed, sofa and any other soft furniture. Pay particular attention to seams and other crevices. Bed bugs love to play hide and seek.
Head lice. Body lice. There are a few different types of lice that like to bite humans. Unlike the other bugs mentioned, lice will spend their entire life cycle on the human body.
They’re small enough that they can get away with hitching a ride on your body or on your clothes.
Bugs that look like silverfish
There is also the possibility that the bug that took a bite out of you may have just looked like a silverfish. We usually don’t hold still and examine whatever is biting us with a magnifying glass. Nope, we flinch, fling, or flick that thing off as fast as we can.
Which is how a case of mistaken identity happens.
So it is very possible that what you saw wasn’t a silverfish at all. Especially since some bugs that look like silverfish can pierce your skin hard enough to draw blood.
How to Prevent Silverfish Bites
The best way to make sure you never get a silverfish bug bite is to actively wipe out a silverfish infestation. Here are some tips to make that happen. Stat.
Lower the humidity
The best thing to do is to reduce the humidity in your home. Silverfish need high humidity to survive. They thrive at humidity levels between 75% and 95% but anything over 50% is comfortable for them.
A dehumidifier is a good investment. This will make the atmosphere too dry for silverfish to feel comfortable, and more importantly, breed.
Lowering the humidity also kills off house dust mites, which silverfish like to feed on, so you kill two birds with one stone. Dust mites will find it difficult to survive in humidity levels under 50%.
Throw away cardboard boxes
If you have a habit of saving cardboard boxes in anticipation of your next move, don’t. Cardboard is a notorious attractant for pests of all sorts and silverfish are no exception. Silverfish love a good cardboard box to call home as well as to nibble on. So if you have a stash of cardboard, get rid of it today.
Move anything you were storing in cardboard boxes into sealed plastic containers. Silverfish can’t chew through thick plastic so your belongings will be much safer from hungry silverfish.
Seal up the food
On a similar note, one of the smartest things to do if you have a silverfish infestation is to seal up your food in airtight containers. Silverfish have different tastes to humans, but since we’re both creatures with a broad diet, there is some overlap.
Silverfish love to munch on typical pantry items like cereal, grains, pasta, flour, and even dry pet food. These carb-y foods usually come in paper, plastic, or cardboard packaging that silverfish can easily chew through.
Along with their love of carbs, silverfish will happily chow down on dry food items like sugar and coffee. And if you’ve ever seen one of these little bugs run, you know they’re fast enough already. The last thing they need is a shot of sugar and caffeine.
So store all foods that are not refrigerated in plastic or glass containers.
Get rid of other insects
Silverfish eat a wide variety of things. They don’t go and actively hunt for other insects to eat; like I said before, they’re cowards. But they are not above feeding on the dead bodies of other insects when they find them.
So it’s possible that the presence of silverfish in your home points to the existence of other pests. If you have another pest problem that’s not been dealt with – now is the time.
Use a natural silverfish killer
One natural, non-toxic way to reduce the number of silverfish in your home is to use diatomaceous earth. This white powder is harmless to humans, but when applied to baseboards and around water pipes, it will dry out any silverfish that come into contact with it.
Set out silverfish bait
Another great, easy option is to invest in silverfish packs – Dekko’s Silverfish Paks are a good choice.
You simply place these ready-made bait packs in places that silverfish love – near bookcases, in garages, and near other food sources – and the silverfish eat through the pack instead of your precious book collection and ingest the poison inside. Boom. Dead silverfish.
The Final Note on Silverfish Bites
Just because silverfish don’t bite people doesn’t mean it’s ok to have them in your house. If they’re not paying rent, they need to go. Silverfish are seriously ugly, and can cause damage to paper, books and other materials. Not to mention the allergies they can cause.
So there’s no shortage of reasons to want to banish silverfish from your home – here’s exactly how to do it. But for now, just count your lucky stars that at the very least, silverfish
don’t rarely bite.