How to Protect Books & Papers From Silverfish
Silverfish are small insects, about 1/2-inch long, that are silver in color and have flat bodies. The three long “bristles” at the rear of their bodies and their two long antennae at the front make them easily recognizable. These critters love damp, warm places, so you’ll often see them in sinks, around plumbing fixtures, in closets, on bookshelves, in bathtubs and in attics and basements. Silverfish pose no threat to humans, but they are pests in the house. Silverfish can damage books and papers by eating small holes in them or by leaving light yellow stains.
Eliminate the places silverfish like to live by removing sources of moisture. Check plumbing, eliminate leaks, and run your air conditioner or a dehumidifier to lower the level of humidity in the home. Do not store books or papers in humid areas of your home.
Silverfish like bookshelves and boxes with papers in them because they eat the glue that binds books and seals boxes. Vacuum bookshelves to remove silverfish. Attics where boxes of papers are often stored are also ideal habitats for silverfish. Vacuum often in these areas and store papers in airtight containers.
Silverfish like to consume foods such cereal, oats and flour, so keep these items in tightly enclosed containers. Keep your books and papers far from silverfish food sources.
Store books in plastic containers with tight lids, and place important papers inside sealed plastic bags before putting the papers in boxes for storage.
If you still see silverfish or the damage they cause (holes or stains in books or on papers, fabric or wallpaper), consider a chemical extermination of these pests.
Why they like it in your home
- Plenty to eat. They tend to eat sugary substances called polysaccharides that are found in numerous household objects, such as book glue, carpet fibers, household glue, paint, fabrics, and even your furniture.
- Places to hide. They leave their eggs, which look like white and yellow bulbs, in dark, moist, hidden areas of your home.
- Moisture. Like many other household pests, they thrive in moist, humid environments.
- Places to thrive. They can live up to 8 years and reproduce frequently throughout their lives. This is why they can be a huge nuisance and over time they can cause damage to household items.
How To Keep Silverfish From Eating Your Books
Silverfish are considered by many Portlanders to be one of the creepiest, most disgusting pests a home can have. They love darkness, humidity and sticking around in a home for a long, long time.
Control humidity. Like moths, silverfish love a humid environment. In fact, silverfish need a wet environment to survive. Properly ventilating attics, basements and bathrooms will help prevent the pests from making your home their home. A dehumidifier can be an invaluable tool for pest prevention and control.
Clean! One of the best ways to handle silverfish is to keep a clean house. Silverfish will eat a wide variety of things, including newspapers, linens and book glue, so try not to leave a silverfish smorgasbord lying around.
Fill entrance points. If they can’t get in, they won’t be a problem. Pay special attention to cracks or holes in walls and floors near pipes and drains – these are not only entrance points, but they can be used to deposit eggs.
Use light and heat. Like vampires, silverfish thrive in the dark. They also enjoy a regulated temperature between 70 and 80 degrees. If you can stand it, you should lower the temperature to about 60 degrees to assist with pest management. Portland residents are used to being chilly, after all. You can also use lights to force them into a more controlled environment.
How to Identify Silverfish
Silverfish are slender and lithe. They have a wide head and abdomen plus a narrow, pointed back end. They’re silvery gray, often shiny, and have six legs, which gives them a fragile and delicate appearance. Most people identify silverfish by their double antenna and three long appendages on the side of their bodies opposite their head. These three long appendages coming from the rear look like additional antennas.
Minus the antennas and appendages, silverfish are approximately one-half inch to one full inch in length. The antennas and tail can be nearly as long as the body itself. Altogether, some silverfish are nearly two inches long.
Silverfish are probably named for the shape and slenderness of their body, which gives them a fish-like appearance. To add to the effect, they have shiny scales covering the segments of their body.
Overall, silverfish have a flat body that they can easily hide under books and stacks of clutter. Unlike many insects, they have no wings. Their small legs can carry them very quickly, so they dash easily from one place to another. Some sources have described silverfish as tear-drop shaped. Their antennas can be very long, curved and flourished – similar in shape to a ponytail.
How to Help Prevent Silverfish
Silverfish are very common insects to have in the home. Unfortunately, getting rid of silverfish is a tough task. Their flat bodies and high speed make them adept hiders. And the fact that silverfish are nocturnal doesn’t make it any easier to spot them.
You don’t have to let silverfish damage your belongings. Here are several steps you can take to help make your home less attractive to silverfish:
- Limit their food sources by keeping dry goods (think cereals, grains, pastas and beans) and pet foods in airtight containers.
- Vacuum carpets, flooring and upholstery regularly to help remove fallen food crumbs.
- Use dehumidifiers in damp areas (including basements) to help remove the moisture that silverfish tend to be attracted to.
- Have dirt floors in crawl spaces or unfinished basements properly lined with plastic sheeting to help control moisture in the structure.
- Have ridge vents properly installed in roofs to help let humidity escape.
- Keep gutters clean and help ensure water drains away from your home.
- Make sure the outside of your house is caulked and well painted.
- Properly seal any open areas, such as seams between walls and ceilings and cracks under and behind baseboards, windows and trim.