Silverfish are common inhabitants of most Mississippi homes, where they damage book bindings, stored papers, photographs, cotton fabrics, and similar products. For most homeowners the nuisance effect of seeing these grey, carrot-shaped, ½-inch long insects scurrying around the bathroom or other rooms in the house is more important than the relatively minor damage they do to paper products. However, damage to books and other paper products can be significant when items are stored for long periods in moist, humid areas such as basements or attics. Silverfish will also occasionally feed on cotton, linen or silk clothing. In homes with significant infestations, it is common to find these insects trapped in the sink or bath tub. Silverfish also live outdoors, but they thrive in indoor areas with high humidity. Unlike most adult insects, adult silverfish are wingless. They have an elongate body that tapers from head to tail, with two long antennae protruding from the head and three long filaments protruding from the rear. Silverfish are said to have “no metamorphosis” because the immatures are so similar to adults, and because adults continue to grow and molt even after they are sexually mature.
Control: Good moisture management, sanitation, and exclusion are the first steps to controlling silverfish. Avoid/repair water leaks; use ventilation to lower humidity; avoid excessive clutter; vacuum regularly and thoroughly, and store important documents in bug-proof containers. Ready-to-use spray or aerosol insecticides containing active ingredients like deltamethrin, cyfluthrin, cypermethrin, or bifenthrin will provide residual control when applied to cracks, crevices and voids. This includes under and behind furniture and appliances and spaces between walls and storage boxes. “Pest strips” containing dichlorvos can be used to control silverfish and other insect pests in infrequently used rooms and storage areas where important books, papers, or articles of clothing are stored. Follow label directions!
See page 35 of Extension Publication 2443, Control Household Insect Pests, for more information on silverfish and silverfish control.
Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist, Mississippi State University Extension Service.
The information given here is for educational purposes only. Always read and follow current label directions. Specific commercial products are mentioned as examples only and reference to specific products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended to other products that may also be suitable and appropriately labeled.