Finding insects crawling in your home can be stressful but what makes it worse is finding that there is an unknown full-blown infestation right under your eyes. Silver bugs can multiply in numbers without getting noticed for a long time due to their discrete nature. They are known to come out at night in darkness after lights have been switched off.
Getting rid of the bugs is quite easy and the idea of carrying out such a task should not worry you. We will give you ways of clearing the insects from your home once and for all. There is also a detailed procedure on what to do to avoid silverfish attack in your home later, or ultimately the ways explaining what to do to kill and get rid of silverfish bugs once and for all when you find them where you reside.
What are silverfish
They are nocturnal insects which are cigar shaped, with long antennae, no wings, silver in color and with mature adults having an average length of about 1 inch. Their backs are almost flat looking like centipedes but the main difference is that they have only 6 six legs. Silverfish has 3 long bristles that protrude from their backs and also compound eyes unlike some bugs that have no eyes at all.
It is a slimy looking bug that derives its name from its silver color and movement because it moves like a fish. Scientifically it belongs to the family Lepismatidae and its Scientific name is Lepisma Saccharina derived from its feeding habits since it mostly feeds on Polysaccharides, starch and cellulose.
Silverfish thrive best in cool climates but can survive under any condition; a feature which has helped it survive for millions of years without becoming extinct. According to studies on their remains it can be seen that they have been on the face of the earth from as early as when dinosaurs were living till today. Simply, they have been around longer than humankind.
They like living in dark areas such as crevices and cracks where they can hide to avoid detection, a feature which increases their chances of survival. They are usually found in damp or wet areas such as bathrooms where it is usually damp or wet if not well dried. If your house is not well cleaned with your clothes neatly arranged the insects may find a way of hiding in the stack of clothes.
Bugs that look like silverfish
They are a unique species of insects that are hard to find others that resemble them. However, there are a few insects that look like them. Their look-alikes are; firebrats, bristletails, earwigs, centipedes and woodlice. Despite their easy to distinguish appearance you can easily confuse silverfish with the bugs mentioned above. Some of the characteristics of the identical insects are:
Firebrats and silverfish belong to the same order Zyngentoma hence the little similarity in their appearance. They also can’t fly because they are wingless, have a flattened back and move fast. They are nocturnal insects feeding mainly at night in darkness.
Their color however is slightly different to that of silverfish. Firebrats have a deeper color which is brown and silver like their sister species. Another contrasting characteristic is that unlike silverfish they thrive in warmer environments and are mainly found near boilers and furnaces.
Bristletails belong to an insect order known as Archaeognatha which share some characteristics with Zygentoma and is the nearest to order Zygentoma. The jumping bristletails are scaled with no ability to fly due to their lack of wings. They have a pair of long antennae with thin bristles. They are gray in color not silver and round unlike silverfish which are flat.
They are outdoor creatures which rarely get in the houses and when disturbed they don’t run away but jump. Their difference in defense mechanism is the main distinguishing factor between the two bugs.
There is a huge difference between earwigs and silverfish but to the untrained eye they can be easily confused especially from far. They are brown in color with a redhead and pale legs and the same length as the house centipedes. At the back they have a pair of pincers not the three bristles like the other bugs.
They are mainly outdoor insects but occasionally find their way to houses. If you notice their presence in your house, relax and find the best way to exterminate them since they are not dangerous nor can they harm you. They invade people’s houses mainly in summer to look for cooler environments.
They feed on plants and dead insects. The myth that they crawl into people’s ears when asleep is not true.
When looked at closely and keenly it is hard to confuse silverfish for silverfish but from far there are a few similarities that make people like the two. For instance, save for the many legs that centipedes have that can be as much as 30, they have a similar body structure and characteristics. Centipedes feed on insects.
They have a life cycle that slightly differs from most insects known as hemimetabolous life cycle where they undergo only 3 development stages which are; egg, nymph and adults. The difference between adults and nymph is mainly the size and they don’t undergo the larvae stage thus there is no major change in form of the insect as it grows. They are said to have ametabolous metamorphosis since there is no big change in the life cycle because the nymphs and adults look alike.
The eggs take about 19- 60 days to hatch from the day they were laid depending on the conditions of the environment. For humid conditions, the eggs take a shorter time to hatch but they also survive in any other environment.
The female lay only 3 eggs per day, laying a maximum of an average of only 100 eggs in their lifetime. The number of eggs laid or to be laid depends on the environment the bugs are staying in. Optimal eggs temperature range is between 22-32 degrees Celsius.
Their eggs are mainly laid in cracks where it is hard to find them and they could be laid in hiding the eggs before hatching.
This is the second stage which comes in immediately when the egg hatches. They look like adults but they have a very small size, shorter and whitish in color. They molt about 6-7 times when in this stage before becoming full adults.
They take around 3-4 months before becoming full adults under optimal conditions but in cooler climates they sometimes take up to 24 months before reaching full maturity. An adult length is approximately an inch long. In maturity they still molt several times and may live between 2 to 8 years. They live for 2 years only if they are in harsh conditions.
Just like other living things they have a means through which they reproduce to ensure continuity of their species. How they breed might be different to other bugs but still serves the purpose.
How they breed
They don’t have direct fertilization but rather perform a dance as the breeding takes place. The dance takes between 30 minutes to one hour for the whole process to take place till it ends.
In the beginning the male touches the antennae and the female flees and the male catches up with it where they reunite and stand side by side while their tails vibrate. The male makes deposits of sperms into female ovipositors in sperm packets which will fertilize the eggs.
Do they spread rapidly?
Silverfish don’t spread as rapidly as other insects due to the low number of eggs they lay in their lifetime. Their maturity process is also slow which slows down the process more making it harder for a rapid spread. Thus, it takes a long time for a large infestation to take place. However, it is good to note that it takes place because they are hard to notice and also a small number can cause a huge damage in your house.
What attracts them
They are mostly attracted by moist, damp, dark areas where they will remain unseen for longer periods of time. Once silverfish find a dark spot rarely will they move in search of another area.
In houses they mostly hide under bathroom mats because they serve both purposes, beneath them it’s both damp and dark. Under such conditions, they thrive getting the best chance to breed and increase in number.
They mostly feed at night where they remain unnoticed. They feed on food remains especially starch if left on tables or plates without disposing of the food where they cannot get to.
What do they eat?
Silverfish mostly feed on foods that are eaten by people. In most instances they feed on table trash at night once you have gone to sleep. They might also crawl to the trash can to search for food. They mostly feed on foods that are sugary or have carbohydrates. They are generally known for feeding on cellulose and carbohydrates.
When they infest your home not only will they feed on the table trash but also other things such as books, furniture, leather and cereals if not properly covered after use. They feed on nearly anything but their love for paper comes from the cellulose that comes with it and the binding glue.
They also feed on pictures made by curators, thus if one is not careful, they might suffer great damage due to their feeding. They also feed on clothes so whenever you spray them you may have to ensure that they are all dead.
Silverfish that live outdoors feed on exoskeleton and leaves.
What are they a sign of?
Unlike ordinary insects once you see them in your house you must start looking into what could have attracted them. They rarely make their way into places that are not conducive for their survival. If by any chance they move into an unconducive environment they will migrate shortly after.
Once you notice silverfish in your house first you should consider looking into cracks and crevices that have been left unnoticed. The house could have cracks that they could have used to gain entry inside. They breed in the crevices so it is important to ensure that they are all sealed in bid to deal with the bugs.
Silverfish could also be an indication of leaky pipes that have remained unnoticed probably because they are not in a position that they can be easily noticed. Silverfish on noticing the presence of leaking pipes will live around the pipe since they thrive best under humid conditions. Once you notice silverfish you can look into your piping system to check whether they are leaking.
If not noticed and controlled early, their presence could also be a sign of great damage to the house. This is mostly due to the fact that they can feed on anything. They chew books, furniture and clothes such that by the time you notice their presence you may have suffered quite a big loss.
They rarely stay in places that are dry thus once you notice them it means that there is high moisture content in your house. You could be leaving your bathroom wet after use or the house is humid.
They also thrive in unhygienic conditions where the house is poorly arranged with clothes left scattered everywhere.
Are they harmful?
Despite their scary look, the bugs are not harmful to human beings directly. They do not spread any diseases to people. They just inhabit the house to survive nothing more. Once you notice them in your house don’t freak out thinking that they could infect you with a disease because they don’t.
However, their presence in the house may mean damage to the house and your property. They damage by boring holes on the walls while hiding. They destroy clothes and furniture by feeding on them and leaving small holes on what they have eaten. If left uncontrolled they can lead to a huge damage.
Do led lights attract them?
With the changing trends and ever evolving technology LED lights have started being preferred over the traditional incandescent bulbs. The LEDs are brighter and consume less energy which translates to lower electricity bill. With the global efforts which are geared towards developing energy efficient products the use of LED light is set to increase.
Silverfish are nocturnal thus cannot be attracted to LEDs since they move in darkness to avoid detection. As earlier mentioned, their chances of survival are merely based on how discreet they are on infesting your house.
It is interesting to note that despite the fact that they are not attracted to LEDs, LEDs attract more insects compared to the traditional incandescent bulbs. With LEDs in your home, you are more likely to find insects hovering around the bulb.
There are traps that have been designed to catch the crawling bugs in your house. They are simple cardboards with glue applied on the top side so that they get stuck when moving on them. You can add a bait to attract them to the trap.
Silverfish poison and bait
Silverfish poison is mostly made of boric acid mixed with some water and flour which once they get into contact with the insect, they dissolve the exoskeleton. The flour will act as a bait due to their love for starch and it is usually placed on top of sticky cards.
How to get rid of & kill them, & Steps to Take
Find the source
The first step towards eliminating them from your house is finding where they are hiding or laying their eggs. You could notice them in the bathroom but they are staying in the garage or kitchen thus the need to find their habitat in your home.
Knowing where they are hiding enables you to preplan early enough on how best to deal with them.
Once you know where they have pitched a tent, the second step is to make the conditions unfavorable for their stay in that position from then onwards. Making the conditions unfavorable for their stay by making it inhabitable might drive them away.
Some of the things needed to be done include cleaning the bathroom every time after use. Always ensure that there are no wet or damp clothes in the house and whenever possible ensure they are hung outside.
In the infested room ensure that there is proper aeration and buy a dehumidifier to clear any excess moisture that could probably be in the air.
Natural clearing methods
Using old newspapers is a natural method that mainly relies on locally available materials and is highly efficient. You can roll a newspaper, moisten it and block it on one end leaving only one entrance with no exit. On doing this you can dispose of the newspaper every 24hrs and replace it with another till you are comfortable.
The newspaper just like any other trap should be placed on the established paths of the insects so as to trap as many as possible.
Take an empty jar, put some bread crumbs or leftover starch in it and tape on the outer side of the jar. The house centipedes will develop interest on the starch in the jar and climb up the jar, once inside they can’t move out again till they get cleared by the responsible person. You can repeat the procedure for several days till you get comfortable that you have trapped the bugs to your satisfaction.
Cinnamon can repel silverfish that has been left unnoticed however it is important to note that for high level infestations these methods may not be as effective as required.
For high level infestations it is advisable that you employ the use of chemical products to deal with them once and for all. The chemicals can be easily found in a store near you and at affordable rates.
The normal washing bleach can be poured in drains that are suspected to house them or where they are believed to be used as a breeding site. You can pour the bleach at night and leave it there overnight to be more effective.
Diatomaceous earth insecticide
This is one of the popular and powerful insecticides in the market which is made of plankton remains believed to have been in existence millions of years ago. It can be used to kill very many types of insects hence its popularity. Any type of diatomaceous earth can be used to kill silverfish. Its working principle is based on killing insects by drying their exoskeleton.
A very effective liquid spray which is supposed to be sprayed where the silverfish is suspected to be and on spraying it is advisable that the house be left for a few hours may be a night till it is safe for use again. It is highly poisonous thus when spraying you should first remove kids’ stuff from a place where they can be easily contaminated. Safeguard any food in the house and compound to avoid contamination.
If you are unable to fully eradicate them or even find where they hide you could contact professionals who have the manpower and skills on how to find their breeding spots. The pros with their manpower rarely miss a spot on where the destructive insects have hidden.
Professionals are preferred because they save the client a lot of time that could have been spent looking for the silverfish. As a client they will advise you what to do to avoid future infestations as well. With the pros, they also know what method they will use according to the degree of infestation.
If unable to clear all silverfish contact professionals. They have the manpower and skills to detect any possible crevice and crack that could harbor the insects. With their experience hardly do they miss a spot.
How to prevent future infestation
There are few things that can be done to avoid future infestation by the insects. They include;
Always ensure that your house is well-cleaned and vacuumed regularly which helps in clearing their eggs by sucking them from the walls as well. Dispose all leftover foods properly to ensure that they don’t infest the house looking for the food.
Make sure that your home is well dried without anything damp and drying any spills so that the house remains dry at all times. The bathroom will also need to be cleaned and dried after use and be well aerated to avoid infestations.
If possible, you can open all the windows for aeration and buy a dehumidifier, which will also help with things like condensation.
Silica gel is readily available and at times usually packed in new shoes and it is used to absorb moisture from the environment. However, if it is to be used care must be taken because it is toxic, to avoid children from reaching it.
Cracks that are on the wall can be used by silverfish to gain entry into the house thus they should be sealed to avoid future access. Cracks are also used as breeding ground thus their elimination helps in reducing their chances of multiplication.
Food well covered
Any foods that are in the house should be well covered to avoid infestations by providing food for the insects. Hygienically, it is also wrong to leave food uncovered and eat it later if there was a possibility of ants eating the food.
Seal any leaking pipe
By sealing leaking pipes, you reduce by a very huge margin the chances of future infestations. Leaking pipes give a conducive environment for the growth and breeding of silverfish.
Ensure that your house is well organized without any clothes of paper littered in the house. By maintaining a well-organized house, they rarely get spaces to hide.