There's nothing aquatic about silverfish, although they are attracted to moisture. These chewing insects, who live on carbohydrates, nest in dark, moist areas, both indoors and out. You can inadvertently bring the insect's eggs into your home in old cardboard boxes or books. Eggs hatch within three weeks, with the silverfish maturing approximately three months later.
Since silverfish are nocturnal, you might not realize you have an infestation in your home unless you chance upon one when turning on the light in a darkened room. These wingless insects, Lespisma sacchrina, received the name silverfish because of the silvery-brown shade of their scales. Silverfish mature at about 3/4 inch in length. Their heads sprout two long antennae, while three long "tails" appear on their other end. Juvenile silverfish look just like adults, but smaller.
Outdoor Nest Areas
Outside, silverfish nest under rocks or tree bark or in moldy places. Birds' nests and those of rodents are also home to silverfish, as are the nests of other insects, including termites. Silverfish often nest in the crawl spaces of buildings. Since they prefer temperatures ranging between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the onset of cool weather often sends them seeking shelter indoors.
Indoor Nest Areas
Indoors, silverfish prefer damp areas with high humidity. That's why you'll often find silverfish in basements, kitchens, laundry rooms and around heating and water pipes. They nest and lay eggs in cracks and crevices in those locations. Kitchen cupboards are another favorite nesting locale, since crumbs and other dried foods are so readily available. Silverfish also frequently infest attics and closets, where they feed on books, clothing, paper and other carbohydrate sources.
Getting Rid of Silverfish
Silverfish reproduce rapidly, with insects living as long as eight years. Because they're nocturnal and secretive, you might not realize the severity of an infestation. Get rid of potential nesting areas by giving your house a good cleaning and getting rid of clutter, especially magazines, newspapers and old clothes or fabrics. You can spray over-the-counter insecticides in potential nest areas. Place moth balls near probable nesting sites to eradicate silverfish. Use caulk to seal cracks throughout your house, especially in the basement and attic. For best results, contact an exterminator to rid your premises of silverfish.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.