Home » What Do Silverfish Eat? Do Silverfish Eat Clothes? Wood? Us?

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

All living creatures need to eat. Even pre-historic creepy crawlies like silverfish. But what do silverfish eat?

It’s a question that’s most likely crossed your mind. Especially if you found a silverfish crawling around in the bathroom, closet, bookshelf, or other area that doesn’t have anything you’d think of as ‘food.’

What exactly are they eating in these places? Well, here’s a hint: pretty much everything.

What Do Silverfish Eat?

Silverfish are basically the insect equivalent of your weird pal with the weird obsession with weird diets. You know the one.

Technically, they’re omnivores, but silverfish tend to eat proteins and carbohydrates, especially favoring things that are very high in polysaccharides.

Polysaccharides is a big word for such a small insect, but it simply refers to carbohydrates like starch, cellulose or glycogen. That can include everything from your dried pantry items to the adhesives found on the backs of wallpaper and the glue binding in your books.

And a bit of everything in between. Let’s take a deep dive into what silverfish eat in each area of the house.

What Do Silverfish Eat in the Kitchen?

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.

And the typical human kitchen offers a lot of carb-heavy options for a hungry silverfish, like:

  • Cereal
  • Oats
  • Flour
  • Grains
  • Pasta
  • Sugar
  • Coffee
  • Beans
  • Dry pet foods

What you need to know. Silverfish will eat the above foods but unlike other pantry pests, they will rarely live in them. What they may do, though, is lay their eggs in food stuff.

What you can do to prevent them. One common way silverfish enter the house is by hitching a ride on the cardboard boxes or paper packaging that pantry items come in. The easiest silverfish prevention tip is to immediately store dry food in air-tight plastic or glass containers.

These pests are scavengers that will eat virtually anything available, especially carbohydrates and proteins. Outdoors, they consume vegetable matter, but once indoors, they will feed on flour, dried meat, glue, wallpaper, cereal, rolled oats, and other starches.

What Do Silverfish Eat in the Bathroom?

There’s good reason why most silverfish are spotted in the bathrooms. Most bathrooms make the perfect silverfish habitat: they’re usually dark, damp and have an abundance of delicious things for silverfish to eat.

So what do silverfish eat in the bathroom? The list is long and disgusting:

  • Dandruff
  • Dead skin cells
  • Human hair
  • Towels and clothing left in the bathroom
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Books and magazines
  • Toilet paper
  • Plaster
  • Wallpaper

What you need to know. The bad news is that even if you cleared your bathroom of all the items on the silverfish menu, it may still be a very attractive place for these creepy crawlies to hang out. That’s because silverfish need high humidity – ideally above 75% – and moderately high temperatures – above 72ºF to thrive and reproduce.

>>>What Attracts Silverfish? 6 Common Causes of Silverfish

Most human bathrooms provide this. Which is why the bathroom should be amongst the first places you look to begin getting rid of silverfish.

What you can do to prevent them. The bathroom is one important battleground in your war against silverfish. Use a fan to get rid of humidity after showers and baths. Even better, get a dehumidifier for the bathroom, especially if you live in a humid area.

If a dehumidifier is not in your budget, opt for moisture absorbers like the Vacplus Moisture Absorber Boxes. These allow you to quickly suck moisture out of small spaces like bathrooms.

Last but not least, try not to leave damp towels and clothing on the floor – these make easy silverfish targets. And last but not least, make use of the best silverfish killers and place them around your bathroom.

>>>How to Kill Silverfish: 11 Clever Silverfish Killers to Use

What Do Silverfish Eat in the Bedroom?

The typical human bedroom offers plenty of options for silverfish to snack on as well, like:

Clothing in closets. Silverfish can and will eat clothes. One of the first places you should look for silverfish in the bedroom is in the dark, uninhabited corners of your closet. They may be living there and feasting on:

  • Cotton
  • Silk
  • Linen
  • Rayon
  • Soiled clothes, especially with sugary stains
  • Starched clothing

Papers and cardboard. A lot of people like to keep collections of books, stacks of paper, photo albums, board games, and even cardboard boxes in the bedroom. For cellulose-loving silverfish, this provides a veritable buffet of things to eat.

The walls. Does your bedroom have wallpaper? Silverfish will happily munch on the paste that holds the wallpaper to the wall. Not to mention the wallpaper itself.

The bedding. The bed is not a typical silverfish hiding place. But if the infestation is severe enough and you have a humid bedroom with sheets that are damp from perspiration or humidity, this can offer a lovely hiding place for silverfish.

Oh, and they won’t just hide there. They can eat the bedding as well.

>>>Silverfish in Bed: Why It Happens and How to Get Rid of It ASAP

What you need to know. Silverfish like dark, damp places. So if you’re spotting silverfish in your bedroom, that means one thing: you’ve got a humidity issue.

High humidity levels above 75% can make the environment very comfortable for a silverfish family to thrive.

What you can do to prevent them. Vacuum the closet, especially the dark corners, regularly. Ditto for the nooks, crannies and baseboards of your room. Also, one of the smartest things you can do for a humid bedroom is to get a dehumidifier.

Don’t forget to properly store clothing that you don’t wear regularly – pack them away in sturdy plastic containers with tight-fitting lids.

What Do Silverfish Eat in the Living Room?

A living room can provide endless food options for a hungry silverfish. Here’s a little list of what silverfish can eat in the typical living room:

  • Books. Both the glue and paper in books are a silverfish favorite. If you have lots of books in the living room, the rarely-arranged bookshelf is a good place to look.
  • Carpet. Silverfish aren’t carpet beetles and carpet may not be the first thing they order of the household menu. But if it’s slim pickings, they will happily munch on the fibers in your carpet.
  • Drapes. Curtains, particularly those made of cotton, silk, linen, or rayon, can be very delicious for a silverfish.

What you need to know. Silverfish often don’t eat fabrics because they like them. Instead, they’re trying to gnaw at the substances that have been spilled on the fabric.

So if you have upholstery, carpets, or drapes that have seen their fair share of spills from sugary foods or substances, that is going to be particularly nourishing for a silverfish.

What you can do to prevent them. A regular vacuum schedule goes a long way to clear the living room of silverfish, silverfish eggs, and silverfish food sources. Wipe up crumbs and wash out any stains that may attract silverfish.

What Do Silverfish Eat in the Basement, Garage, and Attic?

These dark, often damp, and rarely frequented places are very popular silverfish haunts. On top of the ideal environmental conditions, they typically have plenty for a silverfish to eat, like:

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Newspapers
  • Photos
  • Books
  • Journals
  • Insulation

What you need to know. All those things we like to store in cardboard boxes – old photos, journals, newspapers, and other memorabilia – make for delicious silverfish meals. And the cardboard itself is a haven for pests, especially silverfish. They use cardboard both to live in and eat.

What you can do to prevent them. The best thing you can do to reduce the silverfish population in the basement, garage, and attic is to get rid of all cardboard boxes. Store your treasured memorabilia in plastic containers with tight lids.

And remember: Low traffic areas that are perpetually dark and humid are ideal for silverfish to live and breed in. Let the light in as often as you can.

As you can see, silverfish have a wide and varied diet.

This goes some way to explaining why they’re often found nibbling on books, bindings, papers, photos, sugary food deposits and, disgustingly, things like human hair and dead skin.

On a slightly more regular basis, the carbohydrate substance of things like flour, cereals, oats can attract hungry silverfish. But even other dead insects or leathers aren’t off limits if they’re truly in dire straits for a wholesome meal.

Which is kind of bizarre for a creature that will literally suck the urine out of stained clothing if it can, but there you go. Different strokes for different folks.

Do Silverfish Eat Wood?

A common question asked of silverfish is whether they eat wood or not. The answer is no, they’re not known to have any wood in their diets. If anything, silverfish can live in wood and may damage it a bit in the process. But they don’t eat it or use it in any way to cause significant damage.

So if you’re noticing wooden furniture or interiors that look like they’re suffering damage, it’s much more likely that you have another pest problem, like termites, carpenter ants or even carpenter bees.

Do Silverfish Eat Clothes?

As you might’ve noticed by now, silverfish aren’t the pickiest eaters. And yes, they do and will eat clothes, although it’s not their first choice. The warm, dark spaces that fabrics offer are, however, very enticing for a silverfish looking for a place to hide and breed.

But when it comes to snacking on fabrics? In most cases, silverfish are attracted to what is on the fabrics rather than the fabric itself. If you starch your clothes or have sugar-y stains on your clothes, silverfish will be much more likely to have a nibble.

what do silverfish eat

It’s worth noting, too, that silverfish tend to favor lighter fabrics when they have a hankering for your clothing so they’re most likely to nibble on cottons, linens and silks.

In extreme cases, silverfish have been known to nibble on leather and wool but this is rare. If you’re noticing significant damage to heavy, wintry natural fabrics like wool and leather, it’s likely there is another pest that’s responsible, namely carpet beetles.

What does silverfish damage to clothes look like? Silverfish have very weak mandibles that are more suited to ‘scraping’ than taking a good, big chunk.

Look for small, irregular holes in your clothes as well as small, yellow spots. These yellowish stains are one of the most obvious signs of silverfish.

Do Silverfish Eat Books?

Oh, do they! Books are a silverfish favorite, alongside other popular starchy items like journals, newspapers, magazines, photo albums and wallpaper.

silverfish infestation signs

The silverfish appetite for books is due to, well, everything the books are made of. The paper is a delicious meal itself but the glue that’s used to bind books seems to be particularly delectable for these creepy crawlies.

Even better? Most of us don’t thumb through our book collection on a regular basis. Stacks of books can be left undisturbed on bookshelves and boxes for months on end. That makes books the perfect, edible hiding place for silverfish. Sort of like living in a rent-free gingerbread house.

What does silverfish damage to books look like? Without strong jaws, silverfish are capable of mostly grazing on the surface of the paper. They are particularly partial to onionskin and glazed papers so start with books that fit that description and look for areas where silverfish have removed the glaze on the paper.

>>>6 Subtle Silverfish Infestation Signs that Spell Trouble

Silverfish also like to eat the paper in books so look for holes in the pages that look similar to how a caterpillar would chew through a leaf. Also, check for the characteristic yellow stains that silverfish tend to leave behind.

The damage to books can also extend beyond the paper itself – look for holes and shallow losses in the book binding.

Do Silverfish Eat Humans?

Creepy question, to be sure, but it’s fair to wonder. After all, silverfish seem to eat anything and everything else so why not humans?

The good news is that silverfish don’t see us as a food source. As such, they don’t drink our blood and they have very little reason to bite us.

>>>Do Silverfish Bite? The Truth About Silverfish Bites

In fact, silverfish bites are very rare. When they do happen, they are almost entirely harmless. The only exception is if you happen to be allergic.

How Often Do Silverfish Eat?

Although one of the go-to tactics for ridding your home of an insect infestation is to eradicate the pests’ food source as soon as possible, it can prove to be a little more difficult where silverfish are concerned.

This is because the stubborn creatures have evolved to have low metabolisms, which mean that in some truly extreme situations, they can get by on as little as one meal per year.

They won’t suffer these conditions willingly, however. The less ample food is on offer to them, the more likely they are to start feeding on other insects or even get desperate enough to chow down on leather materials.

The joys of not being a fussy eater, eh?

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

All in all, it’s almost impossible to starve a silverfish infestation out of your home. So rather than simply removing all the things that can be a nourishing silverfish meal – aka pretty much everything – you’re going to have to get busy removing the silverfish themselves.

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