Home » What Attracts Silverfish? 6 Common Causes of Silverfish

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.

It’s them.

Like any other living creature, silverfish are just trying to survive. To do that, they need food in their belly and a comfortable habitat to bed down in.

Does your home provide that? Probably.

As you can see, the causes of silverfish in homes is a lot simpler than you’d think. But there’s a bit more to it than that. To really understand what attracts silverfish, you need to know what is food to these creepy buggers and the environments they like to live in.

Let’s dive in.

How Do Silverfish Get In Your House?

The very first thing everyone with a silverfish infestation wants to know is: how did they get into your house in the first place?

There are typically two ways that silverfish gain entry into your home.

You bring them in

Silverfish aren’t unique in this. Many pests use the Trojan Horse method to gain easy access into your home. They simply stowaway on items that you willingly bring into the house, like:

  • Food boxes that contain typical pantry items like cereal, oats, flour, and grains that have silverfish or silverfish eggs hidden in them
  • Books that you bought at the second-hand store that have silverfish eggs laid in them
  • Cardboard boxes that you picked up in preparation of your next move
  • Firewood brought in from the yard

Anything that can be a food source for silverfish is a potential item for infestation. Once you unwittingly bring a silverfish or two into your home, their quick rate of reproduction all but guarantees an infestation.

They sneak in

The other method by which silverfish get in your house is they let themselves in. These creepy crawlies are tiny and able to squeeze into the smallest cracks and crevices, like:

  • Gaps under the door
  • Cracks and spaces around your windows
  • Rotten wood or other insecure spaces in the foundation of your home

Keep in mind that if you have a silverfish infestation indoors, there’s most likely a bigger infestation happening right outside the house.

Silverfish like to live in damp, dark spaces so if you have wet, rotting foliage moldering in your yard or overgrown weeds, you have the perfect living and breeding conditions for silverfish right outside your home. It’s a matter of time before they find their way indoors.

Do Silverfish Mean Your House is Dirty?

The most frustrating part of trying to deal with any kind of 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.

Luckily, most of these things can be easily repaired.

In the case of silverfish, filth isn’t one of the major causes of silverfish. As a matter of fact, silverfish are more attracted to humidity than dirtiness in a home. Because their diet is so wide-ranging, even the cleanest, most well-kept homes can provide plenty of things for silverfish to eat.

That being said, a dirty, cluttered home can make life very easy for silverfish. Dust is largely comprised of organic particles, like dead skin and dander, which silverfish eat. And cluttered homes can provide plenty of dark, hidden nooks and crannies for silverfish to hide and breed in.

But there are other causes of silverfish that are much more enticing than a dirty home. So what attracts silverfish? Let’s jump right into the major causes.

What Attracts Silverfish?

Here’s the thing about silverfish: they are survivors. Scientists estimate that these oddly-shaped, squirmy critters evolved around 400 million years ago. And they didn’t stick around so long by being easy to kill.

One special silverfish skill that has greatly aided their survival? They’re not picky eaters.

Silverfish can and will eat things you wouldn’t dream of. And most human households offer a veritable buffet for silverfish so any attempts to starve them out will be futile.

The best thing you can do is to make sure they never take up residence in your home to begin with. In order to do that, you need to know what attracts silverfish so you can make your home as inhospitable as possible.

Here’s the list of the most common causes of silverfish.

Food (or something like it)

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.

>>>What Do Silverfish Eat? Do Silverfish Eat Clothes? Wood? Us?

Starting with the more normal: they like to feed on stuff that is high in sugars and especially starch, which means they can often find their way into your pantry to munch on the cereals, oats, flour and even the coffee and sugar you haven’t packed away into airtight plastic containers.

But it’s not just the recognizable food stuff that silverfish eat – they also have a palate for adhesives and glues.

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. This is why silverfish are often a problem for storage businesses and the like. 

How to prevent this cause of silverfish

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. 

You can also use a number of silverfish repellents to keep these hungry pests 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 have been left unprotected for too long and the quiet, starch-rich materials present a feast. You can quickly remove these popular silverfish food sources by storing all dry pantry items in airtight food containers.

Moisture and humidity

Like so many household pests, silverfish are always on the lookout for somewhere with ample moisture. This is why you’ll commonly find silverfish hanging around your bathroom like it’s their local street corner.

The thing is, though, silverfish don’t just prefer moisture – they need it for the survival of their species. You see, silverfish are prolific procreators. Because what else are they going to do with their time?

To help their eggs hatch into the most beneficial environment, silverfish seek out moist, damp areas as breeding grounds for their vulnerable and needy offspring. In order for silverfish eggs to hatch and grow into reproductively healthy adults, they require humidity between 75-97%.

With such high levels of relative humidity and a temperate climate between 72-81°F, silverfish can live to a ripe old age of 8 years and lay around 100 eggs during their lifespan. That, my friends, is the last thing you want.

How to prevent this cause of silverfish

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. This is a good habit in general 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.

For smaller spaces, you may be able to get away with using moisture absorbers like the Vacplus Moisture Absorber Box. These are an easy, affordable way to quickly suck the moisture out of small spaces like the bathroom and closet.

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.

>>>6 Subtle Silverfish Infestation Signs that Spell Trouble

How to prevent this cause of silverfish

Inspect cracks and crevices around damper areas of the home – think: the bathrooms, garage, basement, kitchen, and storage areas. Older boxes or storage that might’ve been left unattended for years will be a prime spot for silverfish.

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 the areas 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 attracts silverfish

Now, although they enjoy humid temperatures and environments, silverfish are actually quite averse 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.

How to prevent this cause of silverfish

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?

The smartest thing you can do for these rarely visited, dark and damp spaces is to ventilate them and periodically let the light in. Again, using a dehumidifier is a great way to quickly reduce the conditions to one that is less favorable for silverfish to thrive.

But in all honestly, when it comes to getting rid of silverfish in constantly dark spaces like the basement, the best course of action is to go nuclear. Yes, we’re talking about ways to kill silverfish. Nothing short of this is going to be enough to convince them to move out.

Dusty and dirty places

Silverfish are not necessarily attracted to dirtiness. Even the cleanest of homes are not immune to a silverfish infestation.

That’s because silverfish have an incredibly diverse diet. While they prefer starchy foods, when they’re in really dire straits, silverfish have been known to alter their diets and feed upon other insects and organic matter. That can include even disgusting stuff like human hair and dander.

how to get rid of silverfish

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.

How to prevent this cause of silverfish

Do your best to keep on top of household cleaning and tidying up. A little clearing up of clutter and a regular vacuum schedule 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 or 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 silverfish causes 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.

How to prevent this cause of silverfish

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

More Silverfish Prevention Tips

Obviously, the best way to deal with silverfish is to never get them in the first place. And silverfish prevention tips can help you do that. Here are some of the best practices to keep silverfish out of the house…

Throw out old boxes

Cardboard is a silverfish’s best friend. They can hide there, breed there, and even eat the stuff. The best thing you can do is to throw away any and all cardboard in your home.

Store smart

Anything that is currently sitting in cardboard boxes should be packaged away into airtight plastic containers.

This goes double for dry pantry food stuff that can be particularly enticing for silverfish. All food that doesn’t go in your fridge should be in airtight containers made of plastic or glass.

Secure your door and windows

The thought of sealing up all the tiny cracks and crevices in your home can be daunting. But you know what you can easily do?

Get a door sweep that makes it impossible for silverfish to walk in through the front door. While you’re at it, make sure you have tight-fitting screens for your windows.

Reduce humidity

By far the most effective silverfish prevention tip is to make your home inhospitable for these creepy crawlies to live and breed.

Lowering the humidity to a level below 50% will make life unbearable for these pests, as well as any other pests they may be feeding off, aka dust mites.

Vacuum it all up

The humble vacuum is your best weapon in the defense against silverfish. It quickly sucks up a whole lot of things that silverfish can feed on – human and pet dander, crumbs, dust mites, etc.

Plus, it allows you to remove silverfish eggs before they can produce the next generation of silverfish to infest your home.

Use the best silverfish killers

Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense. If you’ve done everything to cut down on the causes of silverfish, take it a step further and use silverfish killers that will quickly wipe out the infestation that has taken hold.

>>>How to Get Rid of Silverfish Once and For All in 7 Easy Steps

As you can see, silverfish prevention tips are simple – there’s really no need for a hazmat suit and flamethrower, either. Keeping unwanted silverfish out of the home can be as simple as changing the relative humidity and throwing out old boxes. Now go get ’em.

7 thoughts on “What Attracts Silverfish? 6 Common Causes of Silverfish”

  1. Disclaimer: this has very little to do with the actual advice and everything to do with the way it was written.

    I love the way it was written. I really do crisp analogies, funny light hearted quips and gripping grammar. I’d like to read more of ur stuff. Do u write a lot of articles? Thanks, Pat. I wa entertained. Now I have to figure out why they have left the storeroom. Which is a silverfish conducive space to live behind my headboard?

    Thumbs up!

  2. I love the way this was written too…i appreciate the first and second paragraphs the most because its spot on, when i do see one of those speedy little things, i do get freaked out that my house is dirty when i really try to keep a clean house. thanks for info.. well done!
    thank you …

  3. Thanks for not posting pictures of them. They absolutely disgust me. I saw one in my house tonight and had no idea what caused them.

    • Thanks for stopping by and I know exactly what you mean – that’s why we made a point of not posting too many pictures of creepy crawlies.


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