Figuring out how to get rid of silverfish can be frustrating because they prefer scurrying around in the dark and are quick to hide when you turn on the lights.
Rather than smashing them one-by-one, try these tips to trap silverfish and destroy their hiding spots, so they don’t come back.
How to Get Rid of Silverfish
What are silverfish?
If you’re a Star Trek fan, you know that the bugs Khan put in Chekhov’s ear look a lot like silverfish. I’ve been terrified of the things ever since. Before you develop your own irrational fear of them, remember: there are no known instances of GMO-tyrants inserting them into peoples’ brains. Yet.
Otherwise known as “fishmoths,” silverfish are about 1/2 inch long with a scaly appearance, and range from pale silver (young ones) to a dark silver-blue (old ones). Unlike actual fish, these have an exoskeleton along with two antennae on their heads and three prongs on their tails.
If You’ve Seen One, You’ve Got More
Silverfish are rapid breeders. Female silverfish can lay between 2 and 20 eggs each day throughout the year, and their larvae reach adult (breeding) stage in three to four months. In other words, one male and one female silverfish can create a nasty infestation in a couple of weeks.
Where do silverfish live?
Silverfish prefer dark, damp, moist areas — as do a variety of other household pests. Fortunately, this means that your efforts to get rid of silverfish will also kill off many other bugs in your home, too.
The best places to look for them are:
• Under sinks
• Laundry room
Like cockroaches, they love the taste of paper and wet wood. You’ll typically find them around books, magazines, cereal boxes, storage boxes, and behind wallpaper, along with damp or rotting window sills or cupboards.
How to get rid of silverfish
1. Toss the trash. Toss old newspapers and magazines, transfer dry foods from cardboard boxes to canisters and get rid of paper bags or empty boxes you’ve let pile up.
2. Set a trap. Wrap a tall glass jar with masking tape, which gives the bugs traction to climb, and put a piece of bread in the bottom of the glass. Set this trap beneath kitchen or bathroom sinks, in your laundry room, or anywhere else you’ve seen them. The silverfish will climb into the jar hoping to eat the starchy bread, but the jar’s slick interior will keep them from crawling out. Or use sticky traps from the hardware store.
3. Get earthy. Diatomaceous earth is effective against silverfish as well as many other household pests. Most importantly, it’s non-toxic and non-hazardous for humans or pets when used correctly. Sprinkle it lightly around baseboards, behind appliances, and beneath sinks where it will kill the bugs after they walk through the powder.
3. Vacuum thoroughly. Vacuuming will get rid of food crumbs and other things that attract silverfish. It will also remove their eggs, which can be very difficult to see. Use your crevice attachment around baseboards, follow by vacuuming soft furnishings, and then clean the remainder of the floor. (Be sure to clean your vacuum afterward to get rid of any insect eggs you’ve picked up.)
How to keep silverfish away
1. Wipe and spray. Silverfish do not enjoy the smell of citrus or lavender. Use this to your advantage by making homemade cleaning spray using orange essential oil. (Note: orange-scented commercial cleaners will not have the same effect since their fragrance is synthetic.) Use this spray to clean kitchen cupboards inside and out, along with appliances, cabinets under sinks, and baseboards.
2. Caulk and seal. In warm areas, silverfish live outdoors but enter homes when the temperatures rise and the soil dries out. Look around your windows and beneath your doors for gaps that silverfish can crawl through, and seal them with caulk or weatherstripping. Not only will this step also help cut your utility bills, but it will also prevent other pests from entering your home, too.
3. Dehumidify. Since silverfish like moist environments, you can reduce your home’s appeal by using a whole-house dehumidifier in the summer. For spot treatment under sinks, in cupboards, or in closets, try leaving a box of chalk open to absorb moisture and replace it monthly.
4. Spice it up. Cedar doesn’t just repel moths, it keeps silverfish away, too. So do cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaves. Hang sachets filled with one or more of these spices in cupboards and tuck them on shelves behind books to keep the areas pest-free.
Following these tips diligently should rid your home of silverfish within two weeks.