The last thing you want to do is go in search of silverfish infestation signs on your precious weekend. Yet it’s the first step to solving a rampant infestation. After all, you can’t solve what you can’t see.
And when it comes to silverfish, the problem isn’t going to go away without your input.
Unfortunately, a strongly worded letter isn’t going to do the trick. And you won’t be able to just wait them out, either. Silverfish can live for up to eight years.
Even worse, they breed like there’s no tomorrow. Over the course of her long life, a single female silverfish can have as many as 3500 babies. So if you have a budding silverfish infestation, time is of the essence.
The longer an infestation goes unnoticed, the worse it’ll get, making it that much more difficult to repair when the time finally comes. So how do you determine whether you have a silverfish problem on your hands?
Silverfish Infestation Signs to Look For
The first step to determining whether you have a silverfish infestation is learning to spot the signs. Some of these silverfish infestation signs are obvious, such as seeing a live silverfish scurrying about.
But some signs of silverfish can be much more subtle. You’ll have to know where to look and what you’re looking for.
Let’s dive in.
#1. You found a silverfish
The gold standard to silverfish infestation signs is finding a silverfish.
Yes, yes, I know this might seem like the most painfully obvious point to make and you’re right, it is. But many homeowners are prone to anxiety around pests finding their way into the home, convincing themselves that they have a bug problem without actually ever spotting the creature in question.
So, let’s be clear. One of, if not the the major sign, that your home may have a silverfish problem is if you actually see one.
Of course, spotting one straggler in your sink doesn’t necessarily mean your house is crawling with silverfish, but similarly, you have to wonder if it is just a straggler.
Finding even one silverfish can be difficult because these creepy crawlies are nocturnal and do their best to avoid humans. So even finding one, live silverfish can be a strong sign of a silverfish infestation. Especially given the quick, prolific and frequent birth rates of silverfish.
#2. Silverfish droppings
The quintessential clue that there’s something nefarious living nearby. Everything from rodents to dinosaurs have been identified by their droppings and silverfish are no different.
What does silverfish poop look like? Silverfish droppings are quite characteristic and exclusive to the bugs themselves. You want to be looking out for any fecal matter that resembles small peppercorns or pellets – black and spherical.
Although it’s a pretty disgusting thing to devote your time to, it is important to correctly identify which type of creature the deposits belong to, seeing as certain extermination tactics which work for silverfish won’t work for other pests.
Where should you look? Usually droppings are found in the common places like food bags, boxes and other places that silverfish like to hide, which can make it a relatively simple process to gauge whether you have an infestation or not.
Some homeowners have also discovered traces of the poop in their books and papers, cunningly hidden in the middle.
Make sure you familiarize yourself with its appearance and don’t just swipe any droppings to the side, mistaking them for general dust or grime.
#3. Silverfish shed skin
Throughout their lifecycle, silverfish shed their skin, especially throughout adolescence and the ‘nymph’ stage of their life.
What does silverfish shed skin like? Given their small size and stature (the average silverfish doesn’t grow beyond one inch in length) these small husks and shells can go unnoticed for a long time, or simply get caught up in the general floor detritus of your kitchen and bathroom.
Where should you look? Once again, though, it really only takes the discipline and inclination to actually look for them in the first place.
It’s most likely that you’ll discover shed skin in the bathroom, kitchen or basement of your home, seeing as they’re likely to do so closer to their own homes, rather than when exploring or hunting for food.
#4. Yellow stains
It’s likely that you won’t recognize silverfish shed skins for what they are. Which is why it’s useful to look for little yellow stains left on your household belongings.
What do silverfish yellow stains like? You may see inexplicable yellow spots in places that silverfish like to hide. Fortunately, it doesn’t indicate urination. Instead, it’s most likely yellow-ish dust that is shed when silverfish molt.
Similar to the droppings, this is another subtle but sure-fire sign that you have some regular silverfish activity.
Where should you look? This will show up, basically, in any location that the silverfish has been frolicking. Start by looking for yellow spots on your clothing, in your books and papers or even around your wallpaper.
Naturally, this indicator can be a little more difficult to pick up on, seeing as they like to keep to themselves and live in very dark and moist areas of your home that you’re unlikely to investigate too often. A cursory check around some of your house’s more cramped and dingy areas should be enough to tell for certain, though.
#5. Cracks and crevices
Here’s another subtle sign of silverfish that you need to know to look for.
As we all know by this point in our silverfish education, they love nothing more than to squeeze into tiny gaps and crevices all around the home – many of which you might not even be able to spot with the naked eye.
What does it look like? Silverfish aren’t really renowned for their burrowing or home renovation skills. They tend to simply hunt around for a nice gap to settle down and lay their eggs and shed their skin in.
That being said, a clear sign that there’s some activity in your house is an increase in gaps, holes or spaces in your plaster, skirting boards, window sills and so forth.
The more the silverfish use these spaces as a thoroughfare to go about their business, the more they wear down the materials and expose the space that little bit more.
#6. Silverfish damage
Wait, do silverfish cause damage? Yes, they absolutely do. In fact, the biggest telltale sign of a hidden silverfish infestation is damage to your home and possessions.
Silverfish are probably the least picky eaters you’ll ever meet. Pretty much anything and everything is on their menu.
Which is why the damage can be extensive and thus, easier to find. Here is where to check for silverfish damage.
Silverfish book and paper damage
Silverfish love starchy foods so you can start there. You’ll usually find silverfish “evidence” like holes in things such as wallpaper, books, papers and cardboard storage boxes.
For the most part, this is due to the pest’s hunger for weird things such as adhesives and glues which are used in binding books and putting up wallpaper.
Silverfish damage in the pantry
Given that their diet incorporates lots of starchy foods, you may notice silverfish damage to boxes or storage containers with oats, cereals, high-sugar foods and baking ingredients such as flour, too.
It’s worth keeping in mind that if you tend to bulk buy these sorts of foods then store them for a later date, that the longer they’re left unattended the more likely it is that silverfish will find them.
Remember that silverfish hate light, noise, and fuss, so open up your pantry and let the light in often.
Silverfish wallpaper damage
Another smart place to look for signs of silverfish damage is the wallpaper. For the housebound, staring at the walls with nothing to do can be a special kind of hell. But if you want to keep on top of pests and particularly silverfish, it’s worth paying attention to the condition of your wallpaper.
The apparently delicious mix of adhesive and papery goodness makes wallpaper a highly sought after silverfish snack. This usually shows up in the form of damaged wallpaper, with holes or yellow staining. If you’re noticing a lot of this, then you want to either repair or redo your wallpaper. Another option is to simply remove it all together and put an end to the snacking once and for all.
Silverfish damage to clothes
If your problem is particularly bad, or the silverfish nests happen to be located elsewhere in the home, you may notice signs of damage or feeding on some of your laundry or linen.
They tend to focus on lighter and finer materials, however, so if you’re noticing heavy clothing with damage then you might have a different problem on your hands.
Silverfish carpet damage
Carpet is not the first thing on a silverfish’s menu of things to eat. So if you’re spotting significant carpet damage without other signs of silverfish present, it could be that you have another pest on your hands. Namely, the carpet beetle.
Silverfish generally prefer to munch on starchy items but keep in mind that these creepy crawlies are nothing if not versatile eaters. If there is nothing on their preferred menu available, silverfish will resort to eating the fibers of your carpet.
What About Silverfish Bites?
When it comes to blood-sucking pests like bed bugs or fleas, finding red, itchy welts on your skin can be a strong indicator of an infestation.
But what about silverfish? Do silverfish bite people?
This is a very common question, which is understandable considering that many other household pests love a good human feast.
But when it comes to silverfish, the answer is…fortunately, no.
Silverfish just don’t have the right kind of mouth to give a human a bite. Besides, they have no reason to bite you. They can’t feed on any part of you other than the bits you cast off. You know, dead skin, dandruff and other lovely things like that.
Silverfish are essentially nature’s garbage disposal – they eat the remnants every other creature leaves behind. So silverfish bites are not a great sign that there is a widespread infestation.
What About Silverfish Eggs?
In a similar vein, for many pests, finding evidence of the eggs they’ve laid is a clear sign of infestation. So what about silverfish eggs?
Well, silverfish eggs are a serious problem. A single silverfish female can lay several clusters of eggs every single day. This can total thousands of eggs in her lifetime.
What do they look like? Silverfish eggs have a shape that’s between a circle and oval. They are a soft white when first laid but a couple hours of oxidation turns them tough and yellow.
Silverfish eggs are also visible to the naked eye, being around 1 millimeter long. So they should be easy to spot as an infestation sign, right?
Where should you look? Silverfish literally go out of their way to make sure their eggs are tucked away into the safest cracks and crevices. They will very rarely be deposited out in the open, which is why it can be very difficult to look for silverfish eggs.
They will be hiding in the smallest gaps and cracks, buried in dust or food, or safely nestled in stored-away clothing.
The worst part about silverfish eggs is that there will be a lot of them. Once a silverfish finds a good breeding area to safely lay their eggs, they can send out aggregation pheromones to let other pregnant silverfish know that there is a safe nesting area nearby.
Oh wait, we lied. That’s not the worst part. The worst part is that the crowding creates the necessary temperature and humidity to help the eggs hatch faster, in as early as two weeks’ time. Once they hatch, of course, there’s a fresh new batch of hungry silverfish to eat their way through your household belongings.
How to Stop a Silverfish Infestation
At this point, you have a definitive answer to the silverfish mystery of your home.
Silverfish infestations are no different from any other pest problem in this regard. The sooner you identify it, the sooner you can get to work kicking the leggy squatters out of your home.
If any or all of the signs of a silverfish infestation above are present in your house, then it’s highly likely that you’ve got yourself a silverfish infestation. It’s time to take action against the hidden silverfish threat.
Here are some tips to quickly stop a silverfish infestation:
Lower the humidity. Silverfish need high humidity levels to thrive and survive. If you can reduce your home’s humidity to lower than 50%, it automatically becomes a less welcome place for silverfish to live and breed. Invest in a dehumidifier or moisture absorbers like these boxes.
Vacuum regularly. The humble vacuum is the most underrated tool in pest control. It allows you to suck up silverfish eggs before they can hatch as well as tons of household debris that can be food sources for silverfish – i.e. dead skin cells and house dust mites.
Store everything properly. Papers, old picture books, your high school yearbooks – everything that is currently in cardboard boxes should be moved into plastic containers with lids. Ditto for pantry foods – storing food in airtight, sealed containers prevents silverfish from getting to your food.
Set silverfish traps. These sticky traps are best placed in dark, hidden, and humid areas of your home – you know, those places that don’t get much light or action. They won’t kill silverfish but they will trap a good amount of them.
Use silverfish killers. If you want to quickly cut down on the numbers of silverfish in your home, bounce over to our article on how to kill silverfish and choose your weapon.
And remember. The best way to deal with a silverfish infestation is to prevent it from getting out of hand. Check out this article for the smartest things you can do to prevent silverfish from becoming a problem.