Bugs are never a welcome sight, but there's just something about spotting a silverfish that makes your skin crawl. These small, silver insects have flat, scaly bodies, allowing them to easily slither through cracks.
If you've suddenly got a silverfish problem on your hands, TODAY Home consulted the pros to find out why they come inside, how to get rid of them and how to keep them from coming back again.
Why do I have silverfish in my house?
Finding a few stray bugs at home is totally normal, but when you start noticing them more often, you might begin to wonder: Why are creepy crawlers suddenly inside? In the case of silverfish, they're often attracted to damp areas.
"In nature, they are typically found under leaf litter and in caves or similar areas. They typically enter homes through cracks and crevices on the ground level and are attracted to cool, damp areas such as basements," said Chelle Hartzer, board-certified entomologist and technical services manager for Orkin.
Silverfish need high humidity to survive and prefer warm, dark places. As a result, they typically gather in the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room and garage.
"They also eat carbohydrates and protein, so materials such as flour, cardboard boxes, magazines, books, newspaper, dead insects, dead skin cells and some types of fungi," said John M. Kauffman, a technical services manager with Terminix.
Is it bad to have silverfish?
Luckily, silverfish are mostly harmless, unless you're an avid reader.
"Silverfish do not carry any diseases relevant to people. They are herbivores and when they are found inside, they usually feed on starchy items, such as old book bindings, paper products and other old moldy items. They can damage books, cardboard and other similar items, but the feeding damage is usually secondary to the moisture issues that have opened up the food source," Hartzer said.
These pesky bugs aren't known to bite humans, but since they molt and shed, their scales can mix with dust and potentially trigger allergic reactions in some people. They can also contaminate food and stain clothing.
How to get rid of silverfish?
Silverfish rarely build up to infestation levels, and you can keep them away with your run of the mill cleaning routine.
- Break out the vacuum: "Regularly vacuum carpet, floors and upholstered furniture to help keep silverfish at bay. Vacuuming helps remove these pests as well as eggs they may have laid. Be sure to empty the vacuum outside to help prevent insects from entering into your home," Kauffman said.
- Check your humidity levels: Looking for another natural way to kill silverfish? Try drying out your home with a dehumidifier. It'll deter silverfish since they love damp areas!
- Does salt kill silverfish? Many DIY hacks believe salt is a cure-all for removing silverfish, and while it can occasionally help your cause, it's not a perfect method. Plus, sprinkling salt all over the house can cause quite a mess and potentially attract other insects. "While some suggest using salt to kill silverfish, it’s not recommended," Kauffman said.
- Call the pros: If your silverfish problem persists, you can always consult a local pest control professional to help identify potential sources and help prevent future infestations.
How to keep silverfish away?
If you're hoping to keep silverfish away, there are a few prevention methods to help discourage them from coming back.
- Create a barrier: "Seal openings that may let them in such as broken door seals, basement windows that aren’t completely tight and other ground level openings," Hartzer said.
- Control your moisture level: "To help keep silverfish out, you should remove the things that attract them or allow them in. Reduce moisture by repairing any leaks and removing sources of standing water or condensation," Kauffman said.
- Keep up your cleaning routine: Despite our best efforts, sometimes insects come inside, but regular vacuuming can certainly help keep silverfish at bay.