What is a Silverfish? Where Do They Come From?

What is a silverfish How to identify and Remove Silverfish From Your Home

After moving into a new home, our new neighbors warned us to watch out for silverfish. My first response was to ask, “What is a silverfish?” If you’re like me in thinking it’s a flashy fish, you’re wrong. Despite the name, it’s not a fish that lives in the water.

Once I recognized silverfish, I asked these questions: What attracts silverfish to my house? Are silverfish dangerous to my health, or can they damage my home? How do I get rid of silverfish? If I don’t see this insect, are they gone from my house? Here are some answers to these questions.

Silverfish are Insects

Anyone that has dealt with them before will know that these insects are simply an insect pest usually found in homes that needs control. They are also known as bristletails, due to what looks like three tails that protrude from the last segment of their abdomen. They are one-quarter to one-half inch long.


Silverfish lack wings and have silver scales, which give them their color, and they possess a carrot-shaped body that is thick and front, and narrowed at the other end, according to the University of Minnesota Extension Service. They can move very quickly in any direction.

According to the Canadian Federal Government’s Health Portfolio, silverfish are harmless to humans and piggyback into a house on old clothing, papers, old books, furniture, and food. They are found throughout a home, yet prefer areas where they find up to 75 to 95 percent humidity.

Paper Products Become Ruined with Silverfish

Though there is no harm to human health, these insects can wreck a house by eating cellulose, like the book bindings, the paper backing of photographs, or the paste holding up wallpaper, according to the University of California, Davis, Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IMP).

UC IMP also claims that silverfish eat pet food, pasta, flour, cereals, starch applied to clothes, dead insects, debris, and dust. Even though the insects might contaminate food, they do not carry diseases, so you probably won’t get sick if there is a pest infestation in your home.

Silverfish come with weak jaws, yet they contain gut bacteria, which breaks down cellulose, so they often attempt to eat paper items. Their weak jaws scrape the paper, instead of biting it, and leave fungi on the paper that further damages the paper with irregularly shaped holes.

Silverfish are Nocturnal, but Controllable

Considered as one of the earliest insects from 400 million years ago, the Encyclopedia of Life says that the insects are nocturnal, so you usually don’t notice them during the day. UC IMP recommends using a sticky cockroach trap to determine if silverfish are present in your home.

You can also make an insect trap out of a simple glass jar, some packing tape, and flour. This minute-and-a-half Australian-made YouTube video explains how easy it is to make this do-it-yourself project for catching silverfish.

Once you find silverfish, you have both environmentally-friendly and chemical options at your disposal for eliminating pests. Since silverfish don’t like being disturbed, the University of Kentucky recommends vacuuming and cleaning your house on a regular basis.

Also, never leave books or clothing stored for a long period of time in one place when you know silverfish live in your home, because when left undisturbed, silverfish will attempt to feed on the paper in your books, or any starch left in clothing.

Niban® FG, an insecticidal bait containing five percent boric acid, is one of the best products to use for killing silverfish in your home. This involves weather-resistant bait, so it not only works inside of the house, but can be spread outside as well.

A non-chemical approaches to killing pest such like the silverfish involves spreading diatomaceous earth, a natural product derived from fossilized aquatic organisms known as diatoms. Like shards of glass, diatomaceous earth cuts the silverfish exoskeleton, thereby killing the insect.


The answer to “What is a silverfish?” is that it isn’t an animal from the water, but an insect that doesn’t carry diseases, but loves cellulose found in paper. So, if you want to learn more about how to get rid of silverfish click on the link to find different DIY solutions that are hassle-free. 

If you suspect that silverfish live in your home, do the following:

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