General Facts

This insect’s common name comes from its distinctive metallic appearance and fish-like shape. Silverfish and its close cousin, the Firebrat, are nocturnal and hide during the day. If the object they are hiding in is moved, they will dart toward another secluded place. They come out at night to seek food and water and they prefer dry foods such as cereals, flour, pasta, pet food and also paper with glue or paste. These insects have enzymes in their gut that helps in the digestion of cellulose so they are frequently found in book cases.

Silverfish are considered a pest, due to their consumption and destruction of property. They consume carbohydrates (this includes starches, polysaccharides and dextrin found in adhesives). This means that they will eat glue, book bindings, plaster, some paints, paper, photos, sugar, coffee, hair, carpet, clothing, dandruff, tapestries, cotton, linen, and silks. These insects can invade homes from surrounding wild areas, especially as these areas dry out during the summer. They also can come in on lumber, wallboard, and similar products.

Silverfish can live for two to three years, or more, and produce more than 50 offspring. Eggs, deposited one to three at a time, take from 19 to 43 days to hatch (temperature dependent); these offspring can reach sexual maturity in a few months or up to 3 years. This variability is due to environmental conditions and quality of food sources.

Silverfish cannibalize dead and injured insects. They can survive for weeks without food and water, and more than 300 days if water is available and prefer high humidity, although firebrats are more resistant to dryer environments. Silverfish desire cooler temperatures and are usually found in basements.



Managing silverfish is difficult. A complete strategy that involves sanitation, de-humidification, habitat modification, and insecticides can eventually produce satisfactory results. However, none of the following methods alone will eliminate these pests from your home. Use them together to achieve proper control.

  1. Reduce food sources. Keep cereals, flour, meal, pastas, pet foods, and pet treats in airtight containers. Vacuum carpets, flooring, and upholstered furniture regularly.
  2. Reduce water sources. Use dehumidifiers in damp basements. Install plastic sheeting on the ground in dirt crawl spaces and ridge vents in roofs let humid air escape. Keep exterior areas caulked and well painted, gutters and downspouts free of debris, and landscaping graded to allow water to drain away from your home.
  3. Reduce harborages. Seamless interior walls limit access to sites such as wall interiors and spaces between ceilings and walls. Bristletails can gain access to these harborages through crevices and cracks under and behind baseboards, windows, and door trim and holes in walls and floors where pipes pass. Use caulking, spackle, or expandable foam to eliminate these openings.
  4. Direct insecticide application. Various insecticides and chemical formulations are available for bristletail control. Diatomaceous earth and silica aerogel that cause insects to loose moisture are known as desiccants. Apply them as a dust to cracks and crevices or inject them into wall voids. They are only effective if they remain dry, and work best in when water sources are reduced. You can apply synthetic pyrethroids such as deltamethrin, cyfluthrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, cypermethrin, sumithrin, or tralomethrin to cracks as a water-based spray. When injected into dark crevices, the materials have a longer period of efficacy because they are not in direct sunlight.

Professional pest control companies have experience controlling many types of insects and can be contracted to develop a management strategy for bristletails.