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What Do Silverfish Eat

Silverfish are fascinating and often troublesome insects found in many households. Their dietary habits are crucial for effective pest control and prevention. The details of what silverfish eat, their feeding behavior, and how to manage an infestation.

Overview of Silverfish – What do silverfish eat ?

Physical Description

Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) are small, wingless insects known for their silvery-gray color and fish-like movements. They typically measure between 12 to 19 mm in length and have a tapered, carrot-shaped body covered with fine scales. Their antennae are long, and they possess three bristle-like appendages at the end of their abdomen, contributing to their distinctive appearance.

Habitat and Behavior

Silverfish thrive in dark, damp environments, making basements, bathrooms, and kitchens ideal habitats. They are nocturnal and prefer to hide during the day, becoming active at night when they search for food. Silverfish are resilient and can survive in various conditions, but they flourish in areas with high humidity and temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dietary Preferences of Silverfish

what do silverfish eat ? Silverfish have a diverse diet, which allows them to adapt to different environments. Their primary food sources are carbohydrates, but they can consume a wide range of materials.

Starches and Sugars

Silverfish have a particular preference for starchy and sugary substances. These include:

  • Paper and Book Bindings: Silverfish are notorious for infesting libraries and homes where they feed on book bindings, paper, and glue. The starches in these materials are highly attractive to them.
  • Wallpaper Paste: The paste used in wallpaper contains starch, making it a target for silverfish. They can cause significant damage to wallpaper over time.
  • Food Crumbs: Silverfish will consume food crumbs and residues left on kitchen counters, floors, and cabinets. They are particularly drawn to foods rich in carbohydrates, such as cereals, flour, and pasta.
  • Natural Fibers: Silverfish can feed on natural fibers found in clothing, upholstery, and carpets. Cotton, linen, silk, and rayon are especially vulnerable to silverfish damage.


Although less common, silverfish will also consume protein-rich materials when carbohydrates are scarce. These include:

  • Dandruff and Hair: Silverfish may feed on shed human hair and dandruff, which can be found in bathrooms and bedrooms.
  • Dead Insects: Silverfish are scavengers and will eat the carcasses of dead insects, including their own species.
  • Animal Based Glues: Some older adhesives used in furniture and bookbinding are derived from animal products, which can attract silverfish.

Other Edible Materials

What Do Silverfish Eat ? Silverfish are known to eat various other substances, demonstrating their adaptability and resilience:

  • Cellulose: Found in plant materials, cellulose is a common component of many household items, including cardboard, paper towels, and tissues.
  • Synthetic Fabrics: While they prefer natural fibers, silverfish can also damage synthetic fabrics if they contain sweat, food stains, or other organic matter.
  • Mold and Fungi: In damp environments, silverfish may feed on mold and fungi, which thrive in similar conditions.

Feeding Behavior and Patterns

Understanding the feeding behavior of silverfish can help in identifying and controlling infestations.

Nocturnal Activity

Silverfish are primarily nocturnal, which means they forage for food at night. This behavior helps them avoid predators and human activity. Homeowners might not notice a silverfish infestation until the damage becomes significant.

Long Lifespan and Feeding Habits

Silverfish have a long lifespan compared to other household pests, living up to three years or more. During their lifetime, they continuously seek food sources, and their feeding habits can lead to cumulative damage over time. They can survive for several weeks without food, making them particularly resilient.

Moisture Dependence

Silverfish require high humidity to survive. They often seek out damp areas such as bathrooms, basements, and kitchens. Controlling moisture levels in these areas can help reduce the availability of their preferred habitats and food sources.

Signs of Silverfish Infestation

Identifying a silverfish infestation early can prevent extensive damage. Key signs include:

  • Damage to Books and Papers: Small holes, irregular notches, or ragged edges on books, documents, and wallpaper are indicative of silverfish feeding.
  • Yellow Stains: Silverfish excrete a yellowish substance that can stain materials they feed on.
  • Shed Skins: As silverfish grow, they molt, leaving behind their exoskeletons. These can often be found near their hiding spots.
  • Live Insects: Spotting live silverfish, especially during nighttime, is a clear sign of an infestation.

Preventing Silverfish Infestations

Effective prevention strategies can help keep silverfish at bay and protect your home from damage.

Reducing Humidity

Since silverfish thrive in moist environments, controlling humidity is crucial:

  • Dehumidifiers: Use dehumidifiers in basements, bathrooms, and other damp areas to lower moisture levels.
  • Ventilation: Ensure proper ventilation in high-humidity areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens, by using exhaust fans and opening windows.
  • Repair Leaks: Fix any plumbing leaks and ensure that gutters and downspouts direct water away from the house foundation.

Eliminating Food Sources – what do silverfish eat ?

Removing potential food sources can make your home less attractive to silverfish:

  • Proper Food Storage: Store dry foods, such as cereals and pasta, in airtight containers to prevent access.
  • Cleanliness: Regularly clean kitchens and dining areas to remove crumbs and food residues. Vacuum carpets and upholstery to eliminate potential food sources.
  • Pest Proof Storage: Store books, documents, and clothing in sealed containers or plastic bins to protect them from silverfish damage.

Sealing Entry Points

Preventing silverfish from entering your home involves sealing potential entry points:

  • Cracks and Crevices: Seal cracks and crevices in walls, floors, and foundations to prevent silverfish from entering and establishing themselves.
  • Window and Door Seals: Ensure that windows and doors have tight-fitting seals to block silverfish entry.

Natural and Chemical Control Methods

There are several methods to control and eliminate silverfish infestations, ranging from natural remedies to chemical treatments.

Natural Remedies

Natural methods can be effective in managing minor silverfish infestations:

  • Diatomaceous Earth: Sprinkle diatomaceous earth in areas where silverfish are active. This natural powder dehydrates and kills them upon contact.
  • Essential Oils: Essential oils like lavender, cedarwood, and peppermint can repel silverfish. Mix a few drops with water and spray in affected areas.
  • Traps: DIY traps made from a glass jar with a rough exterior and baited with bread can capture silverfish. They can climb in but cannot escape the smooth interior.

Chemical Treatments

For more severe infestations, chemical treatments may be necessary:

  • Insecticides: Apply insecticides specifically labeled for silverfish control in cracks, crevices, and other hiding spots. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe use.
  • Boric Acid: Boric acid powder can be effective when applied in areas where silverfish are present. It acts as a stomach poison when ingested.
  • Professional Pest Control: For persistent or large scale infestations, consider hiring a professional pest control service : americanpestcontrol.com. They have access to more potent treatments and can provide a thorough inspection and management plan.


Silverfish are able to digest cellulose by themselves, thanks to the cellulase produced by their midgut. They consume matter that contains polysaccharides, such as starches and dextrin in adhesives. These include book bindings, carpet, clothing, coffee, dandruff, glue, hair, some paints, paper, photos, plaster, and sugar. They will damage wallpaper in order to consume the paste. Silverfish can also cause damage to tapestries. What Do Silverfish Eat ? Other substances they may eat include cotton, dead insects, linen, silk, leftover crumbs, or even their own exuviae (moulted exoskeleton). During famine, a silverfish may even consume leather and synthetic fabrics. Silverfish can live for a year or more without eating if water is available. Source : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silverfish

Silverfish are persistent pests that can cause significant damage to household items. Understanding their dietary preferences and feeding behaviors is crucial for effective control and prevention. By reducing humidity, eliminating food sources, sealing entry points, and using natural or chemical control methods, you can protect your home from silverfish infestations. Regular monitoring and maintenance are essential to ensure long-term success in keeping these resilient insects at bay.

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