You open a box in your basement and half a dozen silvery insects speed away. What are they? Chances are good they are silverfish, a common household pest.

What is a silverfish?

These insects get their name from their silvery gray color and fishscale-like exoskeleton. They are typically 10 to 20 millimeters in length, with long antennae and a trio of long bristles on their tail end. Juveniles look the same as the adults, just smaller. They reproduce by laying eggs in narrow and confined spaces such as cracks in walls and along floorboards.

The good news is that silverfish do not bite and they do not spread diseases. The bad news is that they can cause significant damage to your clothes, books, important papers and other possessions. Their main food source is carbohydrates and they will often eat linen, silk, the glue from books and cellulose from paper. However, these insects can go for months without food, which can make it hard to get rid of them.

Silverfish often enter homes by tagging along on packaging. They will hide inside cardboard boxes or other containers. Once inside the home, they’ll spread. They can also come inside your home from outdoors through gaps around doors and windows, torn screens and cracks in your foundation.

The way that most people realize they have silverfish is through discovering the insects themselves. You may also see silverfish feces in areas where they congregate. It is also common to notice that possessions like clothing and books show feeding marks.

Silverfish are most likely to be found in warm, moist and dark spaces. These can include areas like the basement, attic and kitchen or bathroom cabinets. They can’t climb smooth, vertical surfaces, so you may find them trapped in your bathtub or sink.

These insects are nocturnal, meaning that they are active at night and typically hide during the day. They move very quickly. These qualities often lead people to mistake them for roaches, which have similar habits.

How do you get rid of silverfish?

Most experts recommend tolerating small numbers of silverfish. This is because they are not generally harmful when only a few are present. However, it is possible for large numbers to congregate in your home, which can lead to damage to your possessions.

Silverfish like damp conditions. Removing sources of moisture can dissuade them from returning to an area. Using a dehumidifier can help repel them. You can also sometimes limit them by removing food sources such as papers, books, cardboard boxes and other clutter. Clearing fallen leaves and other damp materials can help prevent them from returning once you have had them removed from your home.

In some cases, professional pest control efforts might be necessary. Consulting with an expert can allow you to end the infestation without using damaging chemicals in your home.

Are silverfish overrunning your home? We offer pest control options that eliminate them. Call us today for a consultation.