Silverfish photo

Silverfish can be a real nuisance pest by destroying books, wallpaper, and clothes.

Need help getting rid of silverfish?

If you’ve seen silverfish or noticed that some of your clothes have holes, it is time to hire an expert who knows how to get rid of them from your attic, walls and closets in your home. If you’re seeing silverfish in your Charleston home this winter, Barrier Pest Services can help. We offer complete solutions for the extermination of silverfish and many other household pests.

What are silverfish?

Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) are an ancient, mainly nocturnal insect that cannot fly. They are not known to bite or carry diseases but are very common and widespread across the United States. They are mainly nuisance pests that don’t cause structural damage. However, they like to feed on household items like wallpaper, old newspapers, books and clothes.

What do they look like?

Silverfish have an elongated, wingless body shape with three long projections at the tapered rear end of the body. Due to the lack of wings, they cannot fly but are super fast when you try to catch them. When caught, silvery scale-like particles rub off on the hands. The dust is harmless and will rinse off while washing your hands.

The adult insect is about 1/2-3/4″, not including the tail. After hatching from its egg, the insect has the same characteristics and appearance as an adult and will only change in size as they mature to adulthood. Their name comes from their metallic silver color and their side-to-side, fish-like motion when moving.

The firebrat is a closely related insect with a more robust appearance, however, the firebrat is mottled with dark spots.

Where do silverfish like to live?

Silverfish can be found throughout the United States and are typically found in dark, moist, humid areas such as attics, closets and bathrooms.

The closely related firebrat prefers warm, drier environments such as around heat-conducting pipes, stoves, and ovens.

What do silverfish eggs look like?

Their eggs are white to yellowish, tear-shaped and are about 1mm. When they hatch, they are white and develop to a silver color as they mature into adulthood.

Silverfish and firebrats require 3 to 24 months to develop. Their metamorphosis is gradual, and even the very small young closely resemble the fully mature adults.

What types of damage can the insect cause?

In the early days of bookbinding, glue was made using animal byproducts and other natural materials that were high in starch, sugar or animal protein. They prefer high starchy substances or sugar content and will frequently become serious pests by damaging wallpaper, old books and clothing. They’ll also damage paintings or paper such as magazines or old newspaper clippings.

How to get rid of silverfish


When storing clothes, newspapers and magazines, make sure they are placed in sealed containers to eliminate attracting silverfish.

Silverfish are mainly nocturnal insects and thrive in moist or humid environments, which is why they’re sometimes seen in or around the bathtub. Basic cleaning and moisture-prevention methods will help keep these nuisance pests out of your home, while a homemade trap can catch them (see Trapping below).


The best way to avoid a silverfish issue is through prevention. Check out these ideas:

  • Eliminate any water leaks in the bathroom or kitchen areas.
  • Spread boric acid along baseboards and near any sources of water in bathrooms and kitchens. Boric acid is known as a natural substance that can kill both adult silverfish and their eggs. Note: Boric acid is toxic to your lungs, so be careful not to inhale during application and avoid using it if you have pets or small children.
  • Remove dust and stacks of books or magazines from the bathroom, as they enjoy the starch found in old book and magazine binding glues.
  • Spread cedar shavings in areas of the home where silverfish have been spotted.


A trap can be created by covering the outside of a small glass jar with masking tape. Place the container in the bathtub at night, along the sides of the tub, or wherever you’ve noticed silverfish. The insect will climb up the side of the jar and then won’t be able to climb out. Remove the jar and empty it outside, away from your home. You can also fill the bottom of the jar with petroleum jelly making it difficult for the silverfish to escape.