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What Do Silverfish Do? Are They Dangerous?

Silverfish. Even the name is confusing. Because while they may be silver, they are most definitely not fish.

In fact, silverfish are arthropods, a very ancient group of insects that used to crawl around and creep out dinosaurs. Now they creep us out instead.

Some things never change.

In the modern age, silverfish are an extremely common pest inside homes and other structures, especially in humid environments.

But due to their secretive and nocturnal habits – not to mention their ugly looks – they are often a very misunderstood pest. In fact, most of us don’t even know the answer to a very common question: what do silverfish do?

So let’s take a closer look at the silvery, squirmy, ugly little silverfish.

Silverfish Eat a Strange Diet

Silverfish eat a wide range of foods, most of which you won’t find on a menu at a restaurant near you.

But one thing they do have in common with humans is a love of carbohydrates. Silverfish carboload like pro athletes whenever they get the chance. Maybe that’s why they run so fast.

Silverfish also love sugars, and cellulose, which they get in the form of paper. Silverfish feed on glue, wallpaper paste, dead insects, linen, silk and other natural materials.

They also have the ungracious habit of feeding on dead skin cells cast off by humans and other animals. In short, they are not picky eaters at all.

Do Silverfish Bite People?

Wait…but what about humans? Do silverfish bite people? This is a very common misconception, which is understandable considering that many other household pests love a good human feast.

silverfish bug bite

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 – dead skin and dandruff and other lovely things like that.

Silverfish are essentially nature’s garbage disposal – they eat the remnants every other creature leaves behind.

Are Silverfish Dangerous?

So if they don’t feast on you and your loved ones, do silverfish pose any other dangers?

Well, that depends.

Silverfish can’t sting you like a wasp or bite you like a mosquito. They have no interest in crawling in your ears while you sleep.

In fact, they have very little interest in people at all. Rude, I know. But you don’t need to worry about them hurting you or your family or spreading disease.

That doesn’t mean they’re harmless though. Their habit of eating cellulose means they can destroy books, photos, newspapers and other documents.

So that box of old photos in your closet that can’t be replaced? That’s like a silverfish buffet.

They will also eat natural fibers like linen, silk and even leather. So if you have a lot of nice clothes, silverfish could be your worst nightmare.

And if you have wallpaper, silverfish love to get in behind it and eat the paste that holds it to the wall.

So you could be minding your own business in your living room one day and have a sheet of wallpaper peel right off the wall and land on you. It’s not life threatening, but it’s definitely going to annoy you.

Will Silverfish Eat My Food?

Maybe. Silverfish have different tastes to humans, but since we’re both creatures with a broad diet, there is some overlap.

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.

Why Do I Have Silverfish?

Hmmm. Good question. Why do bad things happen to (generally) clean people? It’s probably the most commonly asked pest question of all time.

So why do you have these little buggers – what could you have possibly have done to attract silverfish?

In the wild, silverfish live in the leaf litter that covers the floor of forests.

Close to the soil, they stay hidden in moist dark areas and consume fallen leaves, along with other dead insects. As long as they keep doing that, we barely even notice they’re around.

The trouble comes when we start building house on their habitat. Human houses can provide many of the things silverfish need to thrive – food, water, shelter.

And if your house has a high level of humidity, it may be a good habitat for silverfish. It doesn’t matter if your house is clean or not – silverfish can find something to eat almost anywhere. And once they’re in your home, it can be very difficult to persuade them to leave.

How Can I Get Rid Of Silverfish?

If you’ve found a creepy little silverfish – or more than one – in your kitchen or bathroom, you’re probably wondering how to make them go away.

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!

And over the course of her long life, a single female silverfish can have as many as 3500 babies. So you’ll want to get rid of them as soon as possible. 

The best thing to do is to reduce the humidity in your home. A dehumidifier is a good investment. This will make the atmosphere too dry for silverfish to feel comfortable, and more importantly, to breed.

Diatomaceous earth is also a great way to get rid of silverfish. 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. 

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.

Silverfish are gross, but they’re not worth making yourself sick over.

If you have silverfish, try not to panic. Just remember that they can’t hurt you or your family. Unless you’re made of paper and glue. In which case, you may have bigger problems. 

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