What Do Silverfish Eat?

Minecraft players might encounter silverfish mobs in strongholds. But you’re more likely to find a silverfish after turning on the lights in your bathroom at night or after opening a cardboard box that’s been stored in a damp basement.

Meet the Silverfish

Despite the name silverfish, they aren’t fish at all—they’re insects. So, let’s begin with a few fun facts about silverfish.

  • Their scientific name is Lepisma saccharina. It was their gray to bluish-silver color and fish-like movements inspired the name silverfish.
  • Silverfish are carrot shaped and range from 0.5–1.0 in. (13–25 mm) in length with two long antennae in the front and three long bristles in the rear.
  • Silverfish are incredibly fast—the Usain Bolt of the insect world—but only on horizontal surfaces.
  • They’re nocturnal, prefer warm areas with high humidity, and can be found all over the world.
  • Silverfish predate the dinosaurs. Scientists have found silverfish fossils dating back to the Paleozoic Era.

Now that you know a little more about silverfish, let’s answer the question at hand: “What do silverfish eat?”

Silverfish Eating Habits

Here’s the good news: silverfish don’t bite humans or spread disease.

Now for the bad news: silverfish eat a wide range of foods, preferring sugars, starches, and protein-rich foods.

If there were an equation describing silverfish, it would look something like this:

moisture + starch = silverfish

Below, you’ll find a list of where you might find silverfish in your home. We’ve also included what they might be eating there and helpful tips for preventing damage and protecting your home.

In the Kitchen

Silverfish are attracted to dry goods, such as:

  • cereal
  • flour
  • grains
  • pasta
  • beans
  • dry pet food

Be aware that silverfish could enter your house inside a cardboard box containing one of these items. If they do, you may find yourself with an infestation on your hands. So, remember that silverfish reproduce rapidly and will set up camp anywhere they can find food.

Helpful Tip:

Store dry goods in air-tight plastic containers.

In the Living Room

If you have a wallpapered living room, a full bookcase, and silk curtains, you’ve hit the silverfish trifecta! Add some carpeting and you’ve got a silverfish party on your hands.

Silverfish eat:

  • glue (like in book bindings and wallpaper)
  • paper (like the pages of your books)
  • silk (and other fabrics, such as rayon, linen, and cotton)
  • carpet
Helpful Tips:

If you have a valuable book collection, be sure to keep it in a dry room with controlled humidity. Carefully inspect any new books before bringing them home to ensure the pages and bindings don’t have any silverfish damage or silverfish stowaways.

Regularly vacuum your carpet and upholstery to remove any crumbs that might attract silverfish.

In the Bathroom

Silverfish love warm, humid areas, so bathrooms are a common hangout. After all, bathrooms provide an ideal environment and silverfish snacks such as:

  • shampoo
  • human hair and dandruff
  • cotton towels

Dropping your damp clothing on the floor makes it an easy target for silverfish. This is another reason to listen to your mother and pick up your clothes!

Helpful Tip:

Control the humidity in your bathroom by installing a quality fan and using it during and after showers or baths.

In the Closet

Many people wonder if silverfish eat clothes. If by “eat clothes,” you mean “create small irregular holes and leave behind yellowish stains,” then yes, silverfish eat clothes. If you collect vintage clothing, you’re at a higher risk of silverfish since they may hitch a ride home on a new purchase.

Silverfish are particularly attracted to:

  • cotton
  • linen
  • silk
  • rayon
  • clothes with sugary spills
  • starched clothing

In times of famine, silverfish have even been known to eat leather!

Helpful Tips:

Store high target clothing (silk, cotton, rayon, and linen) in sealed bags or in containers made for garment storage.

Vacuum your closet regularly.

Control the humidity level in your closet.

In the Basement, Attic, Crawl Space, or Garage

Basements, attics, crawl spaces, and garages are notorious hideouts for silverfish. This is because these places tend to be dark, warm, humid, and filled with lots of foods that silverfish like. These areas can become the site of the worst silverfish infestations because they’re low traffic areas where silverfish can set up a stronghold, reproduce, eat, and live undisturbed for long periods of time.

As a bonus, people tend to store items that silverfish love to eat in these areas, including:

  • cardboard boxes
  • newspapers
  • photos
  • insulation
Helpful Tips:

Reduce clutter by recycling old newspapers, magazines, and boxes.

Silverfish don’t view your photos as something to be treasured and preserved. They simply see them as dinner instead. So, keep your important documents and family photos secure in air-tight plastic containers.

Minimizing Silverfish Infestations

In this article, we’ve shared helpful tips for protecting your food, clothes, and goods from silverfish. But you may want to take further steps to protect your home. This is particularly true if you live in a warm, humid area. 

So, here are more ways to minimize the presence of silverfish in your home:

  1. Control the humidity level as much as possible by using dehumidifiers. This is especially important in areas that are more susceptible to silverfish. If you live in a particularly humid area, you may want to consider investing in a whole-house dehumidifier.
  2. If you don’t already have them, install ridge vents in your roof. These will allow warm, damp air to exit your attic and protect your insulation.
  3. Install and use vent fans in both your kitchen and bathroom.
  4. Use a plastic vapor barrier to cover dirt floors in crawl spaces.
  5. Seal any air, duct, and pipe leaks you find.
  6. Fill your house with plants that absorb moisture from the air, including Boston fern, peace lily, reed palm, English ivy, and Tillandsia.
  7. Keep your air conditioner’s drip pans and drain lines clean and unobstructed.
  8. Clean your gutters and downspouts regularly to keep moisture away from your house.

If you suspect you have silverfish in your home, you can use DIY pest control methods like a silverfish spray. You can also consult a pest control professional, who will be able to assess your home for problem areas and suggest the best methods for eliminating silverfish.

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